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V IKTOR E. 

FRANKL 


v 

v. . 




Internationally renowned psychiatrist. 
Viktor E. Frankl. endured years of unspeakable 
horror in Nazi death camps. During, 
and partly because of his suffering. Dr. Frankl 
developed a revolutionary approach to 
psychotherapy known as logotherapy. At the 
core of his theory is the belief that 
man's primary motivational force is his 
search for meaning. 

MAH'S SEARCH FOR MEANING is more 
than the story of Viktor E. Frankls triumph: 
it is a remarkable blend of science and 
humanism and “an introduction to the most 
significant psychological movement of our day.' 
— Gordon W. Allport 

“Perhaps the most significant thinking 
since Freud and Adler. Unconditional faith in an 
unconditional meaning is Dr. Frankl s 
message to the reader." 

— The American Journal of Psychiatry 

Look for Viktor E. Frankl s 
The Unheard Cry for Meaning 
The Unconscious God 
Psychotherapy and Existentialism 
Available from Washington Square Press 


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"IF YOU READ BUT ONE BOOK THIS 
YEAR, DR. FRANKL'S BOOK SHOULD 
BE THAT ONE." —Los Angeles Times 

DR. VIKTOR E. FRANKL is Europe's leading psy- 
chiatrist. His new theory, logothercipy, has rocketed 
him to fame as the leader of the Third Viennese School 
of Psychotherapy and the most significant modern 
thinker in the field. Since 1961, when he was visiting 
professor at Harvard University's summer school. Dr. 
Frankl has been a frequent lecturer in this country. 

"The story of a man who became a number who 
became a person. Today Frankl is one of the most 
gifted of all psychiatrists. Frankl developed his ideas, 
now generally known as the Third School of Viennese 
Psychiatry — the school of logotherapy. The incredible 
attempts to dehumanize man at the concentration 
camps of Auschwitz and Dachau led Frankl to com- 
mence the humanization of psychiatry through lo- 
gotherapy. Frankl is a professional who possesses the 
rare ability to write in a layman's language." 

— Gerald F. Kreyche, DePaul University 

MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 

is a revised and enlarged version of From Death-Camp 
to Existentialism, which was selected as "Book of the 
Year" by Colby College, Baker University, Earlham 
College, Olivet Nazarene College, and St. Mary's 
Dominican College. 



Books by Viktor E. Frankl 


Man's Search for Meaning 
Psychotherapy and Existentialism 
The Unconscious God 
The Unheard Cry for Meaning 

Published by WASHINGTON SQUARE PRESS 


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10020. 



VIKTOR E. 

FRANKL 

MAN'S SEARCH 
FOR MEANING 

Revised and Updated 


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WASHINGTON SQUARE PRESS 
PUBLISHED BY POCKET BOOKS 
New York London Toronto Sydney Tokyo Singapore 



First published in Austria in 1946, under the title Ein Psycholog erlebt das 
Konzentrationslager. This translation first published by Beacon Press in 
1959. Beacon Press books are published under the auspices of the Unitarian 
Universalist Association. 



A Washington Square Press Publication of 
POCKET BOOKS, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc. 
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020 


Copyright © 1959, 1962, 1984 by Victor E. Frankl 
Cover photo copyright © 1984 Janos Kalmar 

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce 
this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. 
For information address Beacon Press, 

25 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108 


ISBN: 0-671-66736-X 


First Washington Square Press printing February 1985 
14 13 12 11 10 9 


WASHINGTON SQUARE PRESS and WSP colophon are 
registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster Inc. 


Printed in the U.S.A. 



To the memory of my mother 




Contents 


Preface by Gordon W. Allport 9 

Preface to the 1 984 Edition 15 

PART ONE 

Experiences in a Concentration Camp 1 9 

PART TWO 

Logotherapy in a Nutshell 117 

POSTSCRIPT 1984 

The Case for a Tragic Optimism 159 


Bibliography 


181 




Preface 


DR. FRANKL, AUTHOR-PSYCHIATRIST, SOMETIMES 
asks his patients who suffer from a multitude of tor- 
ments great and small, "Why do you not commit 
suicide?" From their answers he can often find the 
guide-line for his psychotherapy: in one life there is 
love for one's children to tie to; in another life, a talent 
to be used; in a third, perhaps only lingering memories 
worth preserving. To weave these slender threads of a 
broken life into a firm pattern of meaning and respon- 
sibility is the object and challenge of logotherapy, 
which is Dr. Frankl's own version of modern existen- 
tial analysis. 

In this book. Dr. Frankl explains the experience 
which led to his discovery of logotherapy. As a long- 
time prisoner in bestial concentration camps he found 
himself stripped to naked existence. His father, 
mother, brother, and his wife died in camps or were 
sent to the gas ovens, so that, excepting for his sister, 
his entire family perished in these camps. How could 
he - every possession lost, every value destroyed, 
suffering from hunger, cold and brutality, hourly ex- 


9 



PREFACE 


pecting extermination - how could he find life worth 
preserving? A psychiatrist who personally has faced 
such extremity is a psychiatrist worth listening to. He, 
if anyone, should be able to view our human condition 
wisely and with compassion. Dr. Frankl's words have 
a profoundly honest ring, for they rest on experiences 
too deep for deception. What he has to say gains in 
prestige because of his present position on the Medical 
Faculty of the University in Vienna and because of the 
renown of the logotherapy clinics that today are 
springing up in many lands, patterned on his own 
famous Neurological Policlinic in Vienna. 

One cannot help but compare Viktor Frankl's ap- 
proach to theory and therapy with the work of his 
predecessor, Sigmund Freud. Both physicians con- 
cern themselves primarily with the nature and cure of 
neuroses. Freud finds the root of these distressing 
disorders in the anxiety caused by conflicting and 
unconscious motives. Frankl distinguishes several 
forms of neurosis, and traces some of them (the 
noogenic neuroses) to the failure of the sufferer to find 
meaning and a sense of responsibility in his existence. 
Freud stresses frustration in the sexual life; Frankl, 
frustration in the "will-to-meaning." In Europe today 
there is a marked turning away from Freud and a 
widespread embracing of existential analysis, which 
takes several related forms - the school of logotherapy 
being one. It is characteristic of Frankl's tolerant 
outlook that he does not repudiate Freud, but builds 
gladly on his contributions; nor does he quarrel with 
other forms of existential therapy, but welcomes kin- 
ship with them. 

The present narrative, brief though it is, is artfully 


10 



PREFACE 


constructed and gripping. On two occasions I have 
read it through at a single sitting, unable to break away 
from its spell. Somewhere beyond the midpoint of the 
story Dr. Frankl introduces his own philosophy of 
logotherapy. He introduces it so gently into the contin- 
uing narrative that only after finishing the book does 
the reader realize that here is an essay of profound 
depth, and not just one more brutal tale of concentra- 
tion camps. 

From this autobiographical fragment the reader 
leams much. He learns what a human being does 
when he suddenly realizes he has "nothing to lose 
except his so ridiculously naked life." Frankl's 
description of the mixed flow of emotion and apathy is 
arresting. First to the rescue comes a cold detached 
curiosity concerning one's fate. Swiftly, too, come 
strategies to preserve the remnants of one's life, 
though the chances of surviving are slight. Hunger, 
humiliation, fear and deep anger at injustice are ren- 
dered tolerable by closely guarded images of beloved 
persons, by religion, by a grim sense of humor, and 
even by glimpses of the healing beauties of nature - a 
tree or a sunset. 

But these moments of comfort do not establish the 
will to live unless they help the prisoner make larger 
sense out of his apparently senseless suffering. It is 
here that we encounter the central theme of existen- 
tialism: to live is to suffer, to survive is to find meaning 
in the suffering. If there is a purpose in life at all, there 
must be a purpose in suffering and in dying. But no 
man can tell another what this purpose is. Each must 
find out for himself, and must accept the responsibility 
that his answer prescribes. If he succeeds he will 


11 



PREFACE 


continue to grow in spite of all indignities. Frankl is 
fond of quoting Nietzsche, "He who has a why to live 
can bear with almost any how. " 

In the concentration camp every circumstance con- 
spires to make the prisoner lose his hold. All the 
familiar goals in life are snatched away. What alone 
remains is "the last of human freedoms" - the ability 
to "choose one's attitude in a given set of circum- 
stances." This ultimate freedom, recognized by the 
ancient Stoics as well as by modern existentialists, 
takes on vivid significance in Frankl's story. The pris- 
oners were only average men, but some, at least, by 
choosing to be "worthy of their suffering" proved 
man's capacity to rise above his outward fate. 

As a psychotherapist, the author, of course, wants 
to know how men can be helped to achieve this 
distinctively human capacity. How can one awaken in 
a patient the feeling that he is responsible to life for 
something, however grim his circumstances may be? 
Frankl gives us a moving account of one collective 
therapeutic session he held with his fellow prisoners. 

At the publisher's request Dr. Frankl has added a 
statement of the basic tenets of logotherapy as well as 
a bibliography. Up to now most of the publications of 
this "Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy" (the 
predecessors being the Freudian and Adlerian 
Schools) have been chiefly in German. The reader will 
therefore welcome Dr. Frankl's supplement to his 
personal narrative. 

Unlike many European existentialists, Frankl is nei- 
ther pessimistic nor antireligious. On the contrary, for 
a writer who faces fully the ubiquity of suffering and 
the forces of evil, he takes a surprisingly hopeful view 


12 



PREFACE 


of man’s capacity to transcend his predicament and 
discover an adequate guiding truth. 

I recommend this little book heartily, for it is a gem 
of dramatic narrative, focused upon the deepest of 
human problems. It has literary and philosophical 
merit and provides a compelling introduction to the 
most significant psychological movement of our day. 

GORDON W. ALLPORT 


Gordon W. Allport, formerly a professor of psychology at Har- 
vard University, was one of the foremost writers and teachers in the 
field in this hemisphere. He was author of a large number of original 
works on psychology and was the editor of the Journal of Abnormal 
and Social Psychology. It is chiefly through the pioneering work of 
Professor Allport that Dr. Frankl's momentous theory was intro- 
duced to this country; moreover, it is to his credit that the interest 
shown here in logotherapy is growing by leaps and bounds. 


13 




Preface to the 
1984 Edition 


THIS BOOK HAS NOW LIVED TO SEE ITS SEVENTY- 
third printing in English - in addition to having been 
published in nineteen other languages. And the En- 
glish editions alone have sold almost two and a half 
million copies. 

These are the dry facts, and they may well be the 
reason why reporters of American newspapers and 
particularly of American TV stations more often than 
not start their interviews, after listing these facts, by 
exclaiming: "Dr. Frankl, your book has become a true 
bestseller - how do you feel about such a success?" 
Whereupon I react by reporting that in the first place 1 
do not at all see in the bestseller status of my book so 
much an achievement and accomplishment on my paid 
as an expression of the misery of our time: if hundreds 
of thousands of people reach out for a book whose 
very title promises to deal with the question of a 
meaning to life, it must be a question that burns under 
their fingernails. 

To be sure, something else may have contributed to 
the impact of the book: its second, theoretical paid 


15 



PREFACE TO THE 1984 EDITION 


("Logotherapy in a Nutshell") boils down, as it were, 
to the lesson one may distill from the first part, the 
autobiographical account ("Experiences in a Concen- 
tration Camp"), whereas Part One serves as the exis- 
tential validation of my theories. Thus, both parts 
mutually support their credibility. 

1 had none of this in mind when I wrote the book in 
1945. And 1 did so within nine successive days and 
with the firm determination that the book would be 
published anonymously. In fact, the first printing of 
the original German version does not show my name 
on the cover, though at the last moment, just before 
the book's initial publication, I did finally give in to my 
friends who had urged me to let it be published with 
my name at least on the title page. At first, however, it 
had been written with the absolute conviction that, as 
an anonymous opus, it could never earn its author 
literary fame. I had wanted simply to convey to the 
reader by way of a concrete example that life holds a 
potential meaning under any conditions, even the most 
miserable ones. And I thought that if the point were 
demonstrated in a situation as extreme as that in a 
concentration camp, my book might gain a hearing. I 
therefore felt responsible for writing down what I had 
gone through, for I thought it might be helpful to 
people who are prone to despair. 

And so it is both strange and remarkable to me 
that - among some dozens of books I have authored - 
precisely this one, which I had intended to be pub- 
lished anonymously so that it could never build up any 
reputation on the part of the author, did become a 
success. Again and again I therefore admonish my 
students both in Europe and in America: "Don't aim 


16 



PREFACE TO THE 1984 EDITION 


at success - the more you aim at it and make it a 
target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, 
like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and 
it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one's 
personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or 
as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other 
than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same 
holds for success: you have to let it happen by not 
caring about it. 1 want you to listen to what your 
conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it 
out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live 
to see that in the long run - in the long run, I say! - 
success will follow you precisely because you had 
forgotten to think of it." 

Should the following text of this book, dear reader, 
give you a lesson to learn from Auschwitz, the forego- 
ing text of its preface can give you a lesson to leam 
from an unintentional bestseller. 

As to this new edition, a chapter has been added in 
order to update the theoretical conclusions of the 
book. Drawn from a lecture I gave as the honorary 
president of the Third World Congress of Logotherapy 
in the Auditorium Maximum of Regensburg University 
in West Germany (June 1983), it now forms the "Post- 
script 1984" to this book and is entitled "The Case for 
a Tragic Optimism." The chapter addresses present- 
day concerns and how it is possible to "say yes to life" 
in spite of all the tragic aspects of human existence. To 
hark back to its title, it is hoped that an "optimism" 
for our future may flow from the lesson learned from 
our "tragic" past. 

V.E.F. 

Vienna, 1983 


17 




PART ONE 

Experiences in a 
Concentration Camp 




THIS BOOK DOES NOT CLAIM TO BE AN ACCOUNT OF 
facts and events but of personal experiences, experi- 
ences which millions of prisoners have suffered time 
and again. It is the inside story of a concentration 
camp, told by one of its survivors. This tale is not 
concerned with the great horrors, which have already 
been described often enough (though less often be- 
lieved), but with the multitude of small torments. In 
other words, it will try to answer this question: How 
was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in 
the mind of the average prisoner? 

Most of the events described here did not take place 
in the large and famous camps, but in the small ones 
where most of the real extermination took place. This 
story is not about the suffering and death of great 
heroes and martyrs, nor is it about the prominent 
Capos - prisoners who acted as trustees, having spe- 
cial privileges - or well-known prisoners. Thus it is not 
so much concerned with the sufferings of the mighty, 
but with the sacrifices, the crucifixion and the deaths 
of the great army of unknown and unrecorded victims. 


21 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


It was these common prisoners, who bore no distin- 
guishing marks on their sleeves, whom the Capos 
really despised. While these ordinary prisoners had 
little or nothing to eat, the Capos were never hungry; 
in fact many of the Capos fared better in the camp than 
they had in their entire lives. Often they were harder 
on the prisoners than were the guards, and beat them 
more cruelly than the SS men did. These Capos, of 
course, were chosen only from those prisoners whose 
characters promised to make them suitable for such 
procedures, and if they did not comply with what was 
expected of them, they were immediately demoted. 
They soon became much like the SS men and the camp 
wardens and may be judged on a similar psychological 
basis. 

It is easy for the outsider to get the wrong concep- 
tion of camp life, a conception mingled with sentiment 
and pity. Little does he know of the hard fight for 
existence which raged among the prisoners. This was 
an unrelenting struggle for daily bread and for life 
itself, for one's own sake or for that of a good friend. 

Let us take the case of a transport which was 
officially announced to transfer a certain number of 
prisoners to another camp; but it was a fairly safe 
guess that its final destination would be the gas cham- 
bers. A selection of sick or feeble prisoners incapable 
of work would be sent to one of the big central camps 
which were fitted with gas chambers and crematori- 
ums. The selection process was the signal for a free 
fight among all the prisoners, or of group against 
group. All that mattered was that one's own name and 
that of one's friend were crossed off the list of victims, 


22 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


though everyone knew that for each man saved an- 
other victim had to be found. 

A definite number of prisoners had to go with each 
transport. It did not really matter which, since each of 
them was nothing but a number. On their admission to 
the camp (at least this was the method in Auschwitz) 
all their documents had been taken from them, to- 
gether with their other possessions. Each prisoner, 
therefore, had had an opportunity to claim a fictitious 
name or profession; and for various reasons many did 
this. The authorities were interested only in the cap- 
tives' numbers. These numbers were often tattooed on 
their skin, and also had to be sewn to a certain spot on 
the trousers, jacket, or coat. Any guard who wanted to 
make a charge against a prisoner just glanced at his 
number (and how we dreaded such glances!); he never 
asked for his name. 

To return to the convoy about to depart. There was 
neither time nor desire to consider moral or ethical 
issues. Every man was controlled by one thought 
only: to keep himself alive for the family waiting for 
him at home, and to save his friends. With no hesita- 
tion, therefore, he would arrange for another prisoner, 
another "number," to take his place in the transport. 

As I have already mentioned, the process of select- 
ing Capos was a negative one ; only the most brutal of 
the prisoners were chosen for this job (although there 
were some happy exceptions). But apart from the 
selection of Capos which was undertaken by the SS, 
there was a sort of self-selecting process going on the 
whole time among all of the prisoners. On the average, 
only those prisoners could keep alive who, after years 
of trekking from camp to camp, had lost all scruples in 


23 



MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


their fight for existence; they were prepared to use 
every means, honest and otherwise, even brutal force, 
theft, and betrayal of their friends, in order to save 
themselves. We who have come back, by the aid of 
many lucky chances or miracles - whatever one may 
choose to call them - we know: the best of us did not 
return. 

Many factual accounts about concentration camps 
are already on record. Here, facts will be significant 
only as far as they are part of a man's experiences. It is 
the exact nature of these experiences that the follow- 
ing essay will attempt to describe. For those who have 
been inmates in a camp, it will attempt to explain their 
experiences in the light of present-day knowledge. 
And for those who have never been inside, it may help 
them to comprehend, and above all to understand, the 
experiences of that only too small percentage of pris- 
oners who survived and who now find life very diffi- 
cult. These former prisoners often say, "We dislike 
talking about our experiences. No explanations are 
needed for those who have been inside, and the others 
will understand neither how we felt then nor how we 
feel now." 

To attempt a methodical presentation of the subject 
is very difficult, as psychology requires a certain sci- 
entific detachment. But does a man who makes his 
observations while he himself is a prisoner possess the 
necessary detachment? Such detachment is granted to 
the outsider, but he is too far removed to make any 
statements of real value. Only the man inside knows. 
His judgments may not be objective; his evaluations 
may be out of proportion. This is inevitable. An at- 


24 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


tempt must be made to avoid any personal bias, and 
that is the real difficulty of a book of this kind. At times 
it will be necessary to have the courage to tell of very 
intimate experiences. I had intended to write this book 
anonymously, using my prison number only. But when 
the manuscript was completed, 1 saw that as an anony- 
mous publication it would lose half its value, and that 1 
must have the courage to state my convictions openly. 
1 therefore refrained from deleting any of the passages, 
in spite of an intense dislike of exhibitionism. 

1 shall leave it to others to distill the contents of this 
book into dry theories. These might become a contri- 
bution to the psychology of prison life, which was 
investigated after the First World War, and which 
acquainted us with the syndrome of "barbed wire 
sickness." We are indebted to the Second World War 
for enriching our knowledge of the "psychopathology 
of the masses," (if I may quote a variation of the well- 
known phrase and title of a book by LeBon), for the 
war gave us the war of nerves and it gave us the 
concentration camp. 

As this story is about my experiences as an ordinary 
prisoner, it is important that 1 mention, not without 
pride, that 1 was not employed as a psychiatrist in 
camp, or even as a doctor, except for the last few 
weeks. A few of my colleagues were lucky enough to 
be employed in poorly heated first-aid posts applying 
bandages made of scraps of waste paper. But 1 was 
Number 119,104, and most of the time I was digging 
and laying tracks for railway lines. At one time, my job 
was to dig a tunnel, without help, for a water main 
under a road. This feat did not go unrewarded; just 
before Christmas 1944, 1 was presented with a gift of 


25 



MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


so-called "premium coupons." These were issued by 
the construction firm to which we were practically 
sold as slaves: the firm paid the camp authorities a 
fixed price per day, per prisoner. The coupons cost the 
firm fifty pfennigs each and could be exchanged for six 
cigarettes, often weeks later, although they sometimes 
lost their validity. 1 became the proud owner of a token 
worth twelve cigarettes. But more important, the ciga- 
rettes could be exchanged for twelve soups, and 
twelve soups were often a very real respite from 
starvation. 

The privilege of actually smoking cigarettes was 
reserved for the Capo, who had his assured quota of 
weekly coupons; or possibly for a prisoner who 
worked as a foreman in a warehouse or workshop and 
received a few cigarettes in exchange for doing danger- 
ous jobs. The only exceptions to this were those who 
had lost the will to live and wanted to "enjoy" their 
last days. Thus, when we saw a comrade smoking his 
own cigarettes, we knew he had given up faith in his 
strength to carry on, and, once lost, the will to live 
seldom returned. 

When one examines the vast amount of material 
which has been amassed as the result of many pris- 
oners' observations and experiences, three phases of 
the inmate’s mental reactions to camp life become 
apparent: the period following his admission; the pe- 
riod when he is well entrenched in camp routine; and 
the period following his release and liberation. 

The symptom that characterizes the first phase is 
shock. Under certain conditions shock may even pre- 
cede the prisoner's formal admission to the camp. 1 


26 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


shall give as an example the circumstances of my own 
admission. 

Fifteen hundred persons had been traveling by train 
for several days and nights: there were eighty people 
in each coach. All had to lie on top of their luggage, the 
few remnants of their personal possessions. The car- 
riages were so lull that only the top parts of the 
windows were free to let in the grey of dawn. Every- 
one expected the train to head for some munitions 
factory, in which we would be employed as forced 
labor. We did not know whether we were still in Silesia 
or already in Poland. The engine's whistle had an 
uncanny sound, like a cry for help sent out in commis- 
eration for the unhappy load which it was destined to 
lead into perdition. Then the train shunted, obviously 
nearing a main station. Suddenly a cry broke from the 
ranks of the anxious passengers, "There is a sign, 
Auschwitz!" Everyone's heart missed a beat at that 
moment. Auschwitz - the very name stood for all that 
was horrible: gas chambers, crematoriums, massa- 
cres. Slowly, almost hesitatingly, the train moved on 
as if it wanted to spare its passengers the dreadful 
realization as long as possible: Auschwitz! 

With the progressive dawn, the outlines of an im- 
mense camp became visible: long stretches of several 
rows of barbed-wire fences; watch towers; search 
lights; and long columns of ragged human figures, grey 
in the greyness of dawn, trekking along the straight 
desolate roads, to what destination we did not know. 
There were isolated shouts and whistles of command. 
We did not know their meaning. My imagination led 
me to see gallows with people dangling on them. I was 
horrified, but this was just as well, because step by 


27 



MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


step we had to become accustomed to a terrible and 
immense horror. 

Eventually we moved into the station. The initial 
silence was interrupted by shouted commands. We 
were to hear those rough, shrill tones from then on, 
over and over again in all the camps. Their sound was 
almost like the last cry of a victim, and yet there was a 
difference. It had a rasping hoarseness, as if it came 
from the throat of a man who had to keep shouting like 
that, a man who was being murdered again and again. 
The carriage doors were flung open and a small detach- 
ment of prisoners stormed inside. They wore striped 
uniforms, their heads were shaved, but they looked 
well fed. They spoke in every possible European 
tongue, and all with a certain amount of humor, which 
sounded grotesque under the circumstances. Like a 
drowning man clutching a straw, my inborn optimism 
(which has often controlled my feelings even in the 
most desperate situations) clung to this thought: These 
prisoners look quite well, they seem to be in good 
spirits and even laugh. Who knows? I might manage to 
share their favorable position. 

In psychiatry there is a certain condition known as 
"delusion of reprieve." The condemned man, immedi- 
ately before his execution, gets the illusion that he 
might be reprieved at the very last minute. We, too, 
clung to shreds of hope and believed to the last mo- 
ment that it would not be so bad. Just the sight of the 
red cheeks and round faces of those prisoners was a 
great encouragement. Little did we know then that 
they formed a specially chosen elite, who for years 
had been the receiving squad for new transports as 
they rolled into the station day after day. They took 


28 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


charge of the new arrivals and their luggage, including 
scarce items and smuggled jewelry. Auschwitz must 
have been a strange spot in this Europe of the last 
years of the war. There must have been unique trea- 
sures of gold and silver, platinum and diamonds, not 
only in the huge storehouses but also in the hands of 
the SS. 

Fifteen hundred captives were cooped up in a shed 
built to accommodate probably two hundred at the 
most. We were cold and hungry and there was not 
enough room for everyone to squat on the bare 
ground, let alone to lie down. One five-ounce piece of 
bread was our only food in four days. Yet 1 heard the 
senior prisoners in charge of the shed bargain with one 
member of the receiving party about a tie-pin made of 
platinum and diamonds. Most of the profits would 
eventually be traded for liquor - schnapps. I do not 
remember any more just how many thousands of 
marks were needed to purchase the quantity of 
schnapps required for a "gay evening," but I do know 
that those long-term prisoners needed schnapps. Un- 
der such conditions, who could blame them for trying 
to dope themselves? There was another group of pris- 
oners who got liquor supplied in almost unlimited 
quantities by the SS: these were the men who were 
employed in the gas chambers and crematoriums, and 
who knew very well that one day they would be 
relieved by a new shift of men, and that they would 
have to leave their enforced role of executioner and 
become victims themselves. 

Nearly everyone in our transport lived under the 
illusion that he would be reprieved, that everything 
would yet be well. We did not realize the meaning 


29 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


behind the scene that was to follow presently. We were 
told to leave our luggage in the train and to fall into two 
lines - women on one side, men on the other - in order 
to file past a senior SS officer. Surprisingly enough, 1 
had the courage to hide my haversack under my coat. 
My line filed past the officer, man by man. 1 realized 
that it would be dangerous if the officer spotted my 
bag. He would at least knock me down; I knew that 
from previous experience. Instinctively, I straightened 
on approaching the officer, so that he would not notice 
my heavy load. Then I was face to face with him. He 
was a tall man who looked slim and fit in his spotless 
uniform. What a contrast to us, who were untidy and 
grimy after our long journey! He had assumed an 
attitude of careless ease, supporting his right elbow 
with his left hand. His right hand was lifted, and with 
the forefinger of that hand he pointed very leisurely to 
the right or to the left. None of us had the slightest idea 
of the sinister meaning behind that little movement of a 
man's finger, pointing now to the right and now to the 
left, but far more frequently to the left. 

It was my turn. Somebody whispered to me that to 
be sent to the right side would mean work, the way to 
the left being for the sick and those incapable of work, 
who would be sent to a special camp. I just waited for 
things to take their course, the first of many such times 
to come. My haversack weighed me down a bit to the 
left, but I made an effort to walk upright. The SS man 
looked me over, appeared to hesitate, then put both 
his hands on my shoulders. I tried very hard to look 
smart, and he turned my shoulders very slowly until I 
faced right, and I moved over to that side. 

The significance of the finger game was explained to 


30 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


us in the evening. It was the first selection, the first 
verdict made on our existence or non-existence. For 
the great majority of our transport, about 90 per cent, 
it meant death. Their sentence was carried out within 
the next few hours. Those who were sent to the left 
were marched from the station straight to the cre- 
matorium. This building, as I was told by someone 
who worked there, had the word "bath" written over 
its doors in several European languages. On enter- 
ing, each prisoner was handed a piece of soap, and 

then but mercifully I do not need to describe the 

events which followed. Many accounts have been 
written about this horror. 

We who were saved, the minority of our transport, 
found out the truth in the evening. I inquired from 
prisoners who had been there for some time where my 
colleague and friend P — had been sent. 

"Was he sent to the left side?" 

"Yes," I replied. 

"Then you can see him there," I was told. 

"Where?" A hand pointed to the chimney a few 
hundred yards off, which was sending a column of 
flame up into the grey sky of Poland. It dissolved into a 
sinister cloud of smoke. 

"That's where your friend is, floating up to 
Heaven," was the answer. But I still did not under- 
stand until the truth was explained to me in plain 
words. 

But I am telling things out of their turn. From a 
psychological point of view, we had a long, long way 
in front of us from the break of that dawn at the station 
until our first night's rest at the camp. 

Escorted by SS guards with loaded guns, we were 


31 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


made to run from the station, past electrically charged 
barbed wire, through the camp, to the cleansing sta- 
tion; for those of us who had passed the first selection, 
this was a real bath. Again our illusion of reprieve 
found confirmation. The SS men seemed almost 
charming. Soon we found out their reason. They were 
nice to us as long as they saw watches on our wrists 
and could persuade us in well-meaning tones to hand 
them over. Would we not have to hand over all our 
possessions anyway, and why should not that rela- 
tively nice person have the watch? Maybe one day he 
would do one a good turn. 

We waited in a shed which seemed to be the ante- 
room to the disinfecting chamber. SS men appeared 
and spread out blankets into which we had to throw all 
our possessions, all our watches and jewelry. There 
were still naive prisoners among us who asked, to the 
amusement of the more seasoned ones who were there 
as helpers, if they could not keep a wedding ring, a 
medal or a good-luck piece. No one could yet grasp the 
fact that everything would be taken away. 

I tried to take one of the old prisoners into my 
confidence. Approaching him furtively, 1 pointed to 
the roll of paper in the inner pocket of my coat and 
said, "Look, this is the manuscript of a scientific 
book. 1 know what you will say; that 1 should be 
grateful to escape with my life, that that should be all 1 
can expect of fate. But I cannot help myself. 1 must 
keep this manuscript at all costs; it contains my life's 
work. Do you understand that?" 

Yes, he was beginning to understand. A grin spread 
slowly over his face, first piteous, then more amused, 
mocking, insulting, until he bellowed one word at me 


32 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


in answer to my question, a word that was ever 
present in the vocabulary of the camp inmates: 
"Shit!" At that moment I saw the plain truth and did 
what marked the culminating point of the first phase of 
my psychological reaction: 1 struck out my whole 
former life. 

Suddenly there was a stir among my fellow travel- 
ers, who had been standing about with pale, frightened 
faces, helplessly debating. Again we heard the 
hoarsely shouted commands. We were driven with 
blows into the immediate anteroom of the bath. There 
we assembled around an SS man who waited until we 
had all arrived. Then he said, "1 will give you two 
minutes, and 1 shall time you by my watch. In these 
two minutes you will get fully undressed and drop 
everything on the floor where you are standing. You 
will take nothing with you except your shoes, your belt 
or suspenders, and possibly a truss. I am stalling to 
count - now!" 

With unthinkable haste, people tore off their 
clothes. As the time grew shorter, they became in- 
creasingly nervous and pulled clumsily at their under- 
wear, belts and shoelaces. Then we heard the first 
sounds of whipping; leather straps beating down on 
naked bodies. 

Next we were herded into another room to be 
shaved: not only our heads were shorn, but not a hair 
was left on our entire bodies. Then on to the showers, 
where we lined up again. We hardly recognized each 
other; but with great relief some people noted that real 
water dripped from the sprays. 

While we were waiting for the shower, our naked- 
ness was brought home to us: we really had nothing 


33 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


now except our bare bodies - even minus hair; all we 
possessed, literally, was our naked existence. What 
else remained for us as a material link with our former 
lives? For me there were my glasses and my belt; the 
latter I had to exchange later on for a piece of bread. 
There was an extra bit of excitement in store for the 
owners of trusses. In the evening the senior prisoner in 
charge of our hut welcomed us with a speech in which 
he gave us his word of honor that he would hang, 
personally, "from that beam" - he pointed to it - any 
person who had sewn money or precious stones into 
his truss. Proudly he explained that as a senior inhabit- 
ant the camp laws entitled him to do so. 

Where our shoes were concerned, matters were not 
so simple. Although we were supposed to keep them, 
those who had fairly decent pairs had to give them up 
after all and were given in exchange shoes that did not 
fit. In for real trouble were those prisoners who had 
followed the apparently well-meant advice (given in 
the anteroom) of the senior prisoners and had short- 
ened their jackboots by cutting the tops off, then 
smearing soap on the cut edges to hide the sabotage. 
The SS men seemed to have waited forjust that. All 
suspected of this crime had to go into a small adjoining 
room. After a time we again heard the lashings of the 
strap, and the screams of tortured men. This time it 
lasted for quite a while. 

Thus the illusions some of us still held were de- 
stroyed one by one, and then, quite unexpectedly, 
most of us were overcome by a grim sense of humor. 
We knew that we had nothing to lose except our so 
ridiculously naked lives. When the showers started to 
run, we all tried very hard to make fun, both about 


34 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


ourselves and about each other. After all, real water 
did flow from the sprays ! 

Apart from that strange kind of humor, another 
sensation seized us: curiosity. 1 have experienced this 
kind of curiosity before, as a fundamental reaction 
toward certain strange circumstances. When my life 
was once endangered by a climbing accident, 1 felt 
only one sensation at the critical moment: curiosity, 
curiosity as to whether I should come out of it alive or 
with a fractured skull or some other injuries. 

Cold curiosity predominated even in Auschwitz, 
somehow detaching the mind from its surroundings, 
which came to be regarded with a kind of objectivity. 
At that time one cultivated this state of mind as a 
means of protection. We were anxious to know what 
would happen next; and what would be the conse- 
quence, for example, of our standing in the open air, in 
the chill of late autumn, stark naked, and still wet from 
the showers. In the next few days our curiosity 
evolved into surprise; surprise that we did not catch 
cold. 

There were many similar surprises in store for new 
arrivals. The medical men among us learned first of all: 
"Textbooks tell lies!" Somewhere it is said that man 
cannot exist without sleep for more than a stated 
number of hours. Quite wrong! 1 had been convinced 
that there were certain things I just could not do: 1 
could not sleep without this or 1 could not live with 
that or the other. The first night in Auschwitz we slept 
in beds which were constructed in tiers. On each tier 
(measuring about six-and-a-half to eight feet) slept 
nine men, directly on the boards. Two blankets were 
shared by each nine men. We could, of course, lie only 


35 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


on our sides, crowded and huddled against each other, 
which had some advantages because of the bitter cold. 
Though it was forbidden to take shoes up to the bunks, 
some people did use them secretly as pillows in spite 
of the fact that they were caked with mud. Otherwise 
one's head had to rest on the crook of an almost 
dislocated arm. And yet sleep came and brought obliv- 
ion and relief from pain for a few hours. 

1 would like to mention a few si mi lar surprises on 
how much we could endure: we were unable to clean 
our teeth, and yet, in spite of that and a severe vitamin 
deficiency, we had healthier gums than ever before. 
We had to wear the same shirts for half a year, until 
they had lost all appearance of being shirts. For days 
we were unable to wash, even partially, because of 
frozen water-pipes, and yet the sores and abrasions on 
hands which were dirty from work in the soil did not 
suppurate (that is, unless there was frostbite). Or for 
instance, a light sleeper, who used to be disturbed by 
the slightest noise in the next room, now found himself 
lying pressed against a comrade who snored loudly a 
few inches from his ear and yet slept quite soundly 
through the noise. 

If someone now asked of us the truth of Dos- 
toevski's statement that flatly defines man as a being 
who can get used to anything, we would reply, "Yes, a 
man can get used to anything, but do not ask us how." 
But our psychological investigations have not taken us 
that far yet; neither had we prisoners reached that 
point. We were still in the first phase of our psycholog- 
ical reactions. 

The thought of suicide was entertained by nearly 
everyone, if only for a brief time. It was born of the 


36 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


hopelessness of the situation, the constant danger of 
death looming over us daily and hourly, and the close- 
ness of the deaths suffered by many of the others. 
From personal convictions which will be mentioned 
later, I made myself a firm promise, on my first eve- 
ning in camp, that I would not "run into the wire." 
This was a phrase used in camp to describe the most 
popular method of suicide - touching the electrically 
charged barbed-wire fence. It was not entirely difficult 
for me to make this decision. There was little point in 
committing suicide, since, for the average inmate, life 
expectation, calculating objectively and counting all 
likely chances, was very poor. He could not with any 
assurance expect to be among the small percentage of 
men who survived all the selections. The prisoner of 
Auschwitz, in the first phase of shock, did not fear 
death. Even the gas chambers lost their horrors for 
him after the first few days - after all, they spared him 
the act of committing suicide. 

Friends whom 1 have met later have told me that 1 
was not one of those whom the shock of admission 
greatly depressed. 1 only smiled, and quite sincerely, 
when the following episode occurred the morning after 
our first night in Auschwitz. In spite of strict orders 
not to leave our "blocks," a colleague of mine, who 
had arrived in Auschwitz several weeks previously, 
smuggled himself into our hut. He wanted to calm and 
comfort us and tell us a few things. He had become so 
thin that at first we did not recognize him. With a show 
of good humor and a Devil-may-care attitude he gave 
us a few hurried tips: "Don't be afraid! Don't fear the 
selections! Dr. M — (the SS medical chief) has a soft 
spot for doctors." (This was wrong; my friend's kindly 


37 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


words were misleading. One prisoner, the doctor of a 
block of huts and a man of some sixty years, told me 
how he had entreated Dr. M — to let off his son, who 
was destined for gas. Dr. M — coldly refused.) 

"But one thing I beg of you"; he continued, "shave 
daily, if at all possible, even if you have to use a piece 
of glass to do it ... even if you have to give your last 
piece of bread for it. You will look younger and the 
scraping will make your cheeks look ruddier. If you 
want to stay alive, there is only one way: look fit for 
work. If you even limp, because, let us say, you have a 
small blister on your heel, and an SS man spots this, he 
will wave you aside and the next day you are sure to be 
gassed. Do you know what we mean by a 'Moslem'? A 
man who looks miserable, down and out, sick and 
emaciated, and who cannot manage hard physical 
labor any longer . . . that is a 'Moslem.' Sooner or 
later, usually sooner, every 'Moslem' goes to the gas 
chambers. Therefore, remember: shave, stand and 
walk smartly; then you need not be afraid of gas. All of 
you standing here, even if you have only been here 
twenty-four hours, you need not fear' gas, except 
perhaps you." And then he pointed to me and said, "I 
hope you don't mind my telling you frankly." To the 
others he repeated, "Of all of you he is the only one 
who must fear the next selection. So, don't worry!" 

And I smiled. I am now convinced that anyone in 
my place on that day would have done the same. 

I think it was Lessing who once said, "There are 
things which must cause you to lose your reason or 
you have none to lose." An abnormal reaction to an 
abnormal situation is normal behavior. Even we psy- 


38 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


chiatrists expect the reactions of a man to an abnormal 
situation, such as being committed to an asylum, to be 
abnormal in proportion to the degree of his normality. 
The reaction of a man to his admission to a concentra- 
tion camp also represents an abnormal state of mind, 
but judged objectively it is a normal and, as will be 
shown later, typical reaction to the given circum- 
stances. These reactions, as 1 have described them, 
began to change in a few days. The prisoner passed 
from the first to the second phase; the phase of relative 
apathy in which he achieved a kind of emotional death. 

Apart from the already described reactions, the 
newly arrived prisoner experienced the tortures of 
other most painful emotions, all of which he tried to 
deaden. First of all, there was his boundless longing 
for his home and his family. This often could become 
so acute that he felt himself consumed by longing. 
Then there was disgust; disgust with all the ugliness 
which surrounded him, even in its mere external 
forms. 

Most of the prisoners were given a uniform of rags 
which would have made a scarecrow elegant by com- 
parison. Between the huts in the camp lay pure filth, 
and the more one worked to clear it away, the more 
one had to come in contact with it. It was a favorite 
practice to detail a new arrival to a work group whose 
job was to clean the latrines and remove the sewage. 
If, as usually happened, some of the excrement 
splashed into his face during its transport over bumpy 
fields, any sign of disgust by the prisoner or any 
attempt to wipe off the filth would only be punished 
with a blow from a Capo. And thus the mortification of 
normal reactions was hastened. 


39 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


At first the prisoner looked away if he saw the 
punishment parades of another group; he could not 
bear to see fellow prisoners march up and down for 
hours in the mire, their movements directed by blows. 
Days or weeks later things changed. Early in the 
morning, when it was still dark, the prisoner stood in 
front of the gate with his detachment, ready to march. 
He heard a scream and saw how a comrade was 
knocked down, pulled to his feet again, and knocked 
down once more - and why? He was feverish but had 
reported to sick-bay at an improper time. He was 
being punished for this irregular attempt to be relieved 
of his duties. 

But the prisoner who had passed into the second 
stage of his psychological reactions did not avert his 
eyes any more. By then his feelings were blunted, and 
he watched unmoved. Another example: he found 
himself waiting at sick-bay, hoping to be granted two 
days of light work inside the camp because of injuries 
or perhaps edema or fever. He stood unmoved while a 
twelve-year-old boy was carried in who had been 
forced to stand at attention for hours in the snow or to 
work outside with bare feet because there were no 
shoes for him in the camp. His toes had become 
frostbitten, and the doctor on duty picked off the black 
gangrenous stumps with tweezers, one by one. Dis- 
gust, horror and pity are emotions that our spectator 
could not really feel any more. The sufferers, the dying 
and the dead, became such commonplace sights to him 
after a few weeks of camp life that they could not 
move him any more. 

I spent some time in a hut for typhus patients who 
ran very high temperatures and were often delirious. 


40 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


many of them moribund. After one of them had just 
died, I watched without any emotional upset the scene 
that followed, which was repeated over and over again 
with each death. One by one the prisoners approached 
the still warm body. One grabbed the remains of a 
messy meal of potatoes; another decided that the 
corpse's wooden shoes were an improvement on his 
own, and exchanged them. A third man did the 
same with the dead man’s coat, and another was glad 
to be able to secure some - just imagine! - genuine 
string. 

All this 1 watched with unconcern. Eventually 1 
asked the "nurse" to remove the body. When he 
decided to do so, he took the corpse by its legs, 
allowing it to drop into the small corridor between the 
two rows of boards which were the beds for the fifty 
typhus patients, and dragged it across the bumpy 
earthen floor toward the door. The two steps which led 
up into the open air always constituted a problem for 
us, since we were exhausted from a chronic lack of 
food. After a few months' stay in the camp we could 
not walk up those steps, which were each about six 
inches high, without putting our hands on the door 
jambs to pull ourselves up. 

The man with the corpse approached the steps. 
Wearily he dragged himself up. Then the body: first the 
feet, then the trunk, and finally - with an uncanny 
rattling noise - the head of the coipse bumped up the 
two steps. 

My place was on the opposite side of the hut, next to 
the small, sole window, which was built near the floor. 
While my cold hands clasped a bowl of hot soup from 
which I sipped greedily, I happened to look out the 
window. The corpse which had just been removed 


41 



MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


stared in at me with glazed eyes. Two hours before 1 
had spoken to that man. Now 1 continued sipping my 
soup. 

If my lack of emotion had not surprised me from the 
standpoint of professional interest, I would not re- 
member this incident now, because there was so little 
feeling involved in it. 


Apathy, the blunting of the emotions and the feeling 
that one could not care any more, were the symptoms 
arising during the second stage of the prisoner's psy- 
chological reactions, and which eventually made him 
insensitive to daily and hourly beatings. By means of 
this insensibility the prisoner soon surrounded himself 
with a very necessary protective shell. 

Beatings occurred on the slightest provocation, 
sometimes for no reason at all. For example, bread 
was rationed out at our work site and we had to line up 
for it. Once, the man behind me stood off a little to one 
side and that lack of symmetry displeased the SS 
guard. I did not know what was going on in the line 
behind me, nor in the mind of the SS guard, but 
suddenly I received two sharp blows on my head. Only 
then did 1 spot the guard at my side who was using his 
stick. At such a moment it is not the physical pain 
which hurts the most (and this applies to adults as 
much as to punished children); it is the mental agony 
caused by the injustice, the unreasonableness of it all. 

Strangely enough, a blow which does not even find its 
mark can, under certain circumstances, hurt more 
than one that finds its mark. Once I was standing on a 
railway track in a snowstorm. In spite of the weather 


42 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


our party had to keep on working. I worked quite hard 
at mending the track with gravel, since that was the 
only way to keep warm. For only one moment 1 
paused to get my breath and to lean on my shovel. 
Unfortunately the guard turned around just then and 
thought I was loafing. The pain he caused me was not 
from any insults or any blows. That guard did not think 
it worth his while to say anything, not even a swear 
word, to the ragged, emaciated figure standing before 
him, which probably reminded him only vaguely of a 
human form. Instead, he playfully picked up a stone 
and threw it at me. That, to me, seemed the way to 
attract the attention of a beast, to call a domestic 
animal back to its job, a creature with which you have 
so little in common that you do not even punish it. 

The most painful part of beatings is the insult which 
they imply. At one time we had to carry some long, 
heavy girders over icy tracks. If one man slipped, he 
endangered not only himself but all the others who 
carried the same girder. An old friend of mine had a 
congenitally dislocated hip. He was glad to be capable 
of working in spite of it, since the physically disabled 
were almost certainly sent to death when a selection 
took place. He limped over the track with an espe- 
cially heavy girder, and seemed about to fall and drag 
the others with him. As yet, I was not carrying a girder 
so 1 jumped to his assistance without stopping to think. 
I was immediately hit on the back, rudely reprimanded 
and ordered to return to my place. A few minutes 
previously the same guard who struck me had told us 
deprecatingly that we "pigs" lacked the spirit of com- 
radeship. 

Another time, in a forest, with the temperature at 2° 


43 



MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


F, we began to dig up the topsoil, which was frozen 
hai'd, in order to lay water pipes. By then I had grown 
rather weak physically. Along came a foreman with 
chubby rosy cheeks. His face definitely reminded me 
of a pig's head. 1 noticed that he wore lovely warm 
gloves in that bitter cold. For a time he watched me 
silently. 1 felt that trouble was brewing, for in front of 
me lay the mound of earth which showed exactly how 
much I had dug. 

Then he began: "You pig, I have been watching you 
the whole time! I'll teach you to work, yet! Wait till 
you dig dirt with your teeth - you'll die like an animal ! 
In two days I'll finish you off! You've never done a 
stroke of work in your life. What were you, swine? A 
businessman?" 

I was past caring. But I had to take his threat of 
killing me seriously, so I straightened up and looked 
him directly in the eye. "I was a doctor - a specialist." 

"What? A doctor? I bet you got a lot of money out 
of people." 

"As it happens, 1 did most of my work for no money 
at all, in clinics for the poor." But, now, I had said too 
much. He threw himself on me and knocked me down, 
shouting like a madman. 1 can no longer remember 
what he shouted. 

I want to show with this apparently trivial story that 
there are moments when indignation can rouse even a 
seemingly hardened prisoner - indignation not about 
cruelty or pain, but about the insult connected with it. 
That time blood rushed to my head because 1 had to 
listen to a man judge my life who had so little idea of it, 
a man (I must confess: the following remark, which I 
made to my fellow-prisoners after the scene, afforded 


44 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


me childish relief) "who looked so vulgar and brutal 
that the nurse in the out-patient ward in my hospital 
would not even have admitted him to the waiting 
room." 

Fortunately the Capo in my working party was 
obligated to me; he had taken a liking to me because 1 
listened to his love stories and matrimonial troubles, 
which he poured out during the long marches to our 
work site. I had made an impression on him with my 
diagnosis of his character and with my psychothera- 
peutic advice. After that he was grateful, and this had 
already been of value to me. On several previous 
occasions he had reserved a place for me next to him 
in one of the first five rows of our detachment, which 
usually consisted of two hundred and eighty men. That 
favor was important. We had to line up early in the 
morning while it was still dark. Everybody was afraid 
of being late and of having to stand in the back rows. If 
men were required for an unpleasant and disliked job, 
the senior Capo appeared and usually collected the 
men he needed from the back rows. These men had to 
march away to another, especially dreaded kind of 
work under the command of strange guards. Occasion- 
ally the senior Capo chose men from the first five 
rows, just to catch those who tried to be clever. All 
protests and entreaties were silenced by a few well- 
aimed kicks, and the chosen victims were chased to 
the meeting place with shouts and blows. 

However, as long as my Capo felt the need of 
pouring out his heart, this could not happen to me. I 
had a guaranteed place of honor next to him. But there 
was another advantage, too. Like nearly all the camp 
inmates I was suffering from edema. My legs were so 


45 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


swollen and the skin on them so tightly stretched that 1 
could scarcely bend my knees. 1 had to leave my shoes 
unlaced in order to make them fit my swollen feet. 
There would not have been space for socks even if 1 
had had any. So my partly bare feet were always wet 
and my shoes always lull of snow. This, of course, 
caused frostbite and chilblains. Every single step be- 
came real torture. Clumps of ice formed on our shoes 
during our marches over snow-covered fields. Over 
and again men slipped and those following behind 
stumbled on top of them. Then the column would stop 
for a moment, but not for long. One of the guards soon 
took action and worked over the men with the butt of 
his rifle to make them get up quickly. The more to the 
front of the column you were, the less often you were 
disturbed by having to stop and then to make up for 
lost time by running on your painful feet. 1 was very 
happy to be the personally appointed physician to His 
Honor the Capo, and to march in the first row at an 
even pace. 

As an additional payment for my services, 1 could be 
sure that as long as soup was being dealt out at 
lunchtime at our work site, he would, when my turn 
came, dip the ladle right to the bottom of the vat and 
fish out a few peas. This Capo, a former army officer, 
even had the courage to whisper to the foreman, whom 
1 had quarreled with, that he knew me to be an 
unusually good worker. That didn't help matters, but 
he nevertheless managed to save my life (one of the 
many times it was to be saved). The day after the 
episode with the foreman he smuggled me into another 
work party. 


46 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


There were foremen who felt sorry for us and who 
did their best to ease our situation, at least at the 
building site. But even they kept on reminding us that 
an ordinary laborer did several times as much work as 
we did, and in a shorter time. But they did see reason 
if they were told that a normal workman did not live on 
KM ounces of bread (theoretically - actually we often 
had less) and PA pints of thin soup per day; that a 
normal laborer did not live under the mental stress we 
had to submit to, not having news of our families, who 
had either been sent to another camp or gassed right 
away; that a normal workman was not threatened by 
death continuously, daily and hourly. 1 even allowed 
myself to say once to a kindly foreman, "If you could 
learn from me how to do a brain operation in as short a 
time as I am learning this road work from you, I would 
have great respect for you." And he grinned. 

Apathy, the main symptom of the second phase, 
was a necessary mechanism of self-defense. Reality 
dimmed, and all efforts and all emotions were centered 
on one task: preserving one's own life and that of the 
other fellow. It was typical to hear the prisoners, while 
they were being herded back to camp from their work 
sites in the evening, sigh with relief and say, "Well, 
another day is over. " 

It can be readily understood that such a state of 
strain, coupled with the constant necessity of concen- 
trating on the task of staying alive, forced the pris- 
oner's inner life down to a primitive level. Several of 
my colleagues in camp who were trained in psycho- 
analysis often spoke of a "regression" in the camp 
inmate - a retreat to a more primitive form of mental 


47 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


life. His wishes and desires became obvious in his 
dreams. 

What did the prisoner dream about most frequently? 
Of bread, cake, cigarettes, and nice warm baths. The 
lack of having these simple desires satisfied led him to 
seek wish-fulfillment in dreams. Whether these dreams 
did any good is another matter; the dreamer had to 
wake from them to the reality of camp life, and to the 
terrible contrast between that and his dream illusions. 

1 shall never forget how 1 was roused one night by 
the groans of a fellow prisoner, who threw himself 
about in his sleep, obviously having a horrible night- 
mare. Since 1 had always been especially sorry for 
people who suffered from fearful dreams or deliria, 1 
wanted to wake the poor man. Suddenly I drew back 
the hand which was ready to shake him, frightened at 
the thing I was about to do. At that moment 1 became 
intensely conscious of the fact that no dream, no 
matter how horrible, could be as bad as the reality of 
the camp which surrounded us, and to which 1 was 
about to recall him. 

Because of the high degree of undernourishment 
which the prisoners suffered, it was natural that the 
desire for food was the major primitive instinct around 
which mental life centered. Let us observe the major- 
ity of prisoners when they happened to work near each 
other and were, for once, not closely watched. They 
would immediately start discussing food. One fellow 
would ask another working next to him in the ditch 
what his favorite dishes were. Then they would ex- 
change recipes and plan the menu for the day when 
they would have a reunion - the day in a distant future 


48 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


when they would be liberated and returned home. 
They would go on and on, picturing it all in detail, until 
suddenly a warning was passed down the trench, 
usually in the form of a special password or number: 
"The guard is coming." 

1 always regarded the discussions about food as 
dangerous. Is it not wrong to provoke the organism 
with such detailed and affective pictures of delicacies 
when it has somehow managed to adapt itself to ex- 
tremely small rations and low calories? Though it may 
afford momentary psychological relief, it is an illusion 
which physiologically, surely, must not be without 
danger. 

During the later part of our imprisonment, the daily 
ration consisted of very watery soup given out once 
daily, and the usual small bread ration. In addition to 
that, there was the so-called "extra allowance," con- 
sisting of three-fourths of an ounce of margarine, or of 
a slice of poor quality sausage, or of a little piece of 
cheese, or a bit of synthetic honey, or a spoonful of 
watery jam, varying daily. In calories, this diet was 
absolutely inadequate, especially taking into consider- 
ation our heavy manual work and our constant expo- 
sure to the cold in inadequate clothing. The sick who 
were "under special care" - that is, those who were 
allowed to lie in the huts instead of leaving the camp 
for work - were even worse off. 

When the last layers of subcutaneous fat had van- 
ished, and we looked like skeletons disguised with skin 
and rags, we could watch our bodies beginning to 
devour themselves. The organism digested its own 
protein, and the muscles disappeared. Then the body 
had no powers of resistance left. One after another the 


49 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


members of the little community in our hut died. Each 
of us could calculate with fair accuracy whose turn 
would be next, and when his own would come. After 
many observations we knew the symptoms well, 
which made the correctness of our prognoses quite 
certain. "He won't last long," or, "This is the next 
one," we whispered to each other, and when, during 
our daily search for lice, we saw our own naked bodies 
in the evening, we thought alike: This body here, my 
body, is really a corpse already. What has become of 
me? I am but a small portion of a great mass of human 
flesh ... of a mass behind barbed wire, crowded into a 
few earthen huts; a mass of which daily a certain 
portion begins to rot because it has become lifeless. 

1 mentioned above how unavoidable were the 
thoughts about food and favorite dishes which forced 
themselves into the consciousness of the prisoner, 
whenever he had a moment to spare. Perhaps it can be 
understood, then, that even the strongest of us was 
longing for the time when he would have fairly good 
food again, not for the sake of good food itself, but for 
the sake of knowing that the sub-human existence, 
which had made us unable to think of anything other 
than food, would at last cease. 

Those who have not gone through a similar experi- 
ence can hardly conceive of the soul-destroying men- 
tal conflict and clashes of will power which a famished 
man experiences. They can hardly grasp what it means 
to stand digging in a trench, listening only for the siren 
to announce 9:30 or 10:00 A.M. - the half-hour lunch 
interval - when bread would be rationed out (as long 
as it was still available); repeatedly asking the fore- 


50 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


man - if he wasn't a disagreeable fellow - what the 
time was; and tenderly touching a piece of bread in 
one's coat pocket, first stroking it with frozen glove- 
less fingers, then breaking off a crumb and putting it in 
one's mouth and finally, with the last bit of will power, 
pocketing it again, having promised oneself that morn- 
ing to hold out till afternoon. 

We could hold endless debates on the sense or 
nonsense of certain methods of dealing with the small 
bread ration, which was given out only once daily 
during the latter part of our confinement. There were 
two schools of thought. One was in favor of eating up 
the ration immediately. This had the twofold advan- 
tage of satisfying the worst hunger pangs for a very 
short time at least once a day and of safeguarding 
against possible theft or loss of the ration. The second 
group, which held with dividing the ration up, used 
different arguments. 1 finally joined their ranks. 

The most ghastly moment of the twenty-four hours 
of camp life was the awakening, when, at a still 
nocturnal hour, the three shrill blows of a whistle tore 
us pitilessly from our exhausted sleep and from the 
longings in our dreams. We then began the tussle with 
our wet shoes, into which we could scarcely force our 
feet, which were sore and swollen with edema. And 
there were the usual moans and groans about petty 
troubles, such as the snapping of wires which replaced 
shoelaces. One morning I heard someone, whom 1 
knew to be brave and dignified, cry like a child be- 
cause he finally had to go to the snowy marching 
grounds in his bare feet, as his shoes were too 
shrunken for him to wear. In those ghastly minutes, 1 


51 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


found a little bit of comfort; a small piece of bread 
which 1 drew out of my pocket and munched with 
absorbed delight. 

Undernourishment, besides being the cause of the 
general preoccupation with food, probably also ex- 
plains the fact that the sexual urge was generally 
absent. Apart from the initial effects of shock, this 
appears to be the only explanation of a phenomenon 
which a psychologist was bound to observe in those 
all-male camps: that, as opposed to all other strictly 
male establishments - such as army barracks - there 
was little sexual perversion. Even in his dreams the 
prisoner did not seem to concern himself with sex, 
although his frustrated emotions and his finer, higher 
feelings did find definite expression in them. 

With the majority of the prisoners, the primitive life 
and the effort of having to concentrate on just saving 
one's skin led to a total disregard of anything not 
serving that purpose, and explained the prisoners' 
complete lack of sentiment. This was brought home to 
me on my transfer from Auschwitz to a camp affiliated 
with Dachau. The train which carried us - about 2,000 
prisoners - passed through Vienna. At about midnight 
we passed one of the Viennese railway stations. The 
track was going to lead us past the street where I was 
born, past the house where I had lived many years of 
my life, in fact, until I was taken prisoner. 

There were fifty of us in the prison car, which had 
two small, barred peepholes. There was only enough 
room for one group to squat on the floor, while the 
others, who had to stand up for hours, crowded round 
the peepholes. Standing on tiptoe and looking past the 


52 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


others' heads through the bars of the window, I caught 
an eerie glimpse of my native town. We all felt more 
dead than alive, since we thought that our transport 
was heading for the camp at Mauthausen and that we 
had only one or two weeks to live. 1 had a distinct 
feeling that I saw the streets, the squares and the 
houses of my childhood with the eyes of a dead man 
who had come back from another world and was 
looking down on a ghostly city. 

After hours of delay the train left the station. And 
there was the street - my street! The young lads who 
had a number of years of camp life behind them and for 
whom such a journey was a great event stared atten- 
tively through the peephole. I began to beg them, to 
entreat them, to let me stand in front for one moment 
only. I tried to explain how much a look through that 
window meant to me just then. My request was 
refused with rudeness and cynicism: "You lived here 
all those years? Well, then you have seen quite enough 
already!" 

In general there was also a "cultural hibernation" in 
the camp. There were two exceptions to this: politics 
and religion. Politics were talked about everywhere in 
camp, almost continuously; the discussions were 
based chiefly on rumors, which were snapped up and 
passed around avidly. The rumors about the military 
situation were usually contradictory. They followed 
one another rapidly and succeeded only in making a 
contribution to the war of nerves that was waged in the 
minds of all the prisoners. Many times, hopes for a 
speedy end to the war, which had been fanned by 
optimistic rumors, were disappointed. Some men lost 


53 



MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


all hope, but it was the incorrigible optimists who were 
the most irritating companions. 

The religious interest of the prisoners, as far and as 
soon as it developed, was the most sincere imaginable. 
The depth and vigor of religious belief often surprised 
and moved a new arrival. Most impressive in this 
connection were improvised prayers or services in the 
corner of a hut, or in the darkness of the locked cattle 
truck in which we were brought back from a distant 
work site, tired, hungry and frozen in our ragged 
clothing. 

In the winter and spring of 1945 there was an out- 
break of typhus which infected nearly all the pris- 
oners. The mortality was great among the weak, who 
had to keep on with their hard work as long as they 
possibly could. The quarters for the sick were most 
inadequate, there were practically no medicines or 
attendants. Some of the symptoms of the disease were 
extremely disagreeable: an irrepressible aversion to 
even a scrap of food (which was an additional danger 
to life) and terrible attacks of delirium. The worst case 
of delirium was suffered by a friend of mine who 
thought that he was dying and wanted to pray. In his 
delirium he could not find the words to do so. To avoid 
these attacks of delirium, I tried, as did many of the 
others, to keep awake for most of the night. For hours 
I composed speeches in my mind. Eventually I began 
to reconstruct the manuscript which I had lost in the 
disinfection chamber of Auschwitz, and scribbled the 
key words in shorthand on tiny scraps of paper. 

Occasionally a scientific debate developed in camp. 
Once I witnessed something I had never seen, even in 
my normal life, although it lay somewhat near my own 


54 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


professional interests: a spiritualistic seance. 1 had 
been invited to attend by the camp's chief doctor (also 
a prisoner), who knew that I was a specialist in psychi- 
atry. The meeting took place in his small, private room 
in the sick quarters. A small circle had gathered, 
among them, quite illegally, the warrant officer from 
the sanitation squad. 

One man began to invoke the spirits with a kind of 
prayer. The camp’s clerk sat in front of a blank sheet 
of paper, without any conscious intention of writing. 
During the next ten minutes (after which time the 
seance was terminated because of the medium's fail- 
ure to conjure the spirits to appear) his pencil slowly 
drew lines across the paper, forming quite legibly 
"VAE V." It was asserted that the clerk had never 
learned Latin and that he had never before heard the 
words "vae victis" - woe to the vanquished. In my 
opinion he must have heard them once in his life, 
without recollecting them, and they must have been 
available to the "spirit" (the spirit of his subconscious 
mind) at that time, a few months before our liberation 
and the end of the war. 

In spite of all the enforced physical and mental 
primitiveness of the life in a concentration camp, it 
was possible for spiritual life to deepen. Sensitive 
people who were used to a rich intellectual life may 
have suffered much pain (they were often of a delicate 
constitution), but the damage to their inner selves was 
less. They were able to retreat from their terrible 
surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual 
freedom. Only in this way can one explain the appar- 
ent paradox that some prisoners of a less hardy 


55 



MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


make-up often seemed to survive camp life better than 
did those of a robust nature. In order to make myself 
clear, I am forced to fall back on personal experience. 
Let me tell what happened on those early mornings 
when we had to march to our work site. 

There were shouted commands: "Detachment, for- 
ward march! Left-2-3-4! Left-2-3-4! Left-2-3-4! Left-2- 
3-4! First man about, left and left and left and left! 
Caps off!" These words sound in my ears even now. 
At the order "Caps off!" we passed the gate of the 
camp, and searchlights were trained upon us. Who- 
ever did not march smartly got a kick. And worse off 
was the man who, because of the cold, had pulled his 
cap back over his ears before permission was given. 

We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and 
through large puddles, along the one road leading from 
the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at 
us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone 
with very sore feet supported himself on his neigh- 
bor's arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did 
not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his up- 
turned collar, the man marching next to me whispered 
suddenly: "If our wives could see us now! I do hope 
they are better off in their camps and don't know what 
is happening to us." 

That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And 
as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, 
supporting each other time and again, dragging one 
another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both 
knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasion- 
ally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading 
and the pink light of the morning was beginning to 
spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind 


56 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


clung to my wife's image, imagining it with an uncanny 
acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, 
her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look 
was then more luminous than the sun which was 
beginning to rise. 

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life 1 
saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, 
proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. 
The truth - that love is the ultimate and the highest 
goal to which man can aspire. Then 1 grasped the 
meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and 
human thought and belief have to impart: The salva- 
tion of man is through love and in love. I understood 
how a man who has nothing left in this world still may 
know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the 
contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter 
desolation, when man cannot express himself in posi- 
tive action, when his only achievement may consist in 
enduring his sufferings in the right way - an honorable 
way - in such a position man can, through loving 
contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, 
achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was 
able to understand the meaning of the words, "The 
angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite 
glory." 

In front of me a man stumbled and those following 
him fell on top of him. The guard rushed over and used 
his whip on them all. Thus my thoughts were inter- 
rupted for a few minutes. But soon my soul found its 
way back from the prisoner's existence to another 
world, and I resumed talk with my loved one: I asked 
her questions, and she answered; she questioned me in 
return, and I answered. 


57 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


"Stop!" We had arrived at our work site. Every- 
body rushed into the dark hut in the hope of getting a 
fairly decent tool. Each prisoner got a spade or a 
pickaxe. 

"Can't you hurry up, you pigs?" Soon we had 
resumed the previous day's positions in the ditch. The 
frozen ground cracked under the point of the pickaxes, 
and sparks flew. The men were silent, their brains 
numb. 

My mind still clung to the image of my wife. A 
thought crossed my mind: 1 didn't even know if she 
were still alive. I knew only one thing - which 1 have 
learned well by now: Love goes very far beyond the 
physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest 
meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether 
or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still 
alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance. 

I did not know whether my wife was alive, and I had 
no means of finding out (during all my prison life there 
was no outgoing or incoming mail); but at that moment 
it ceased to matter. There was no need for me to know; 
nothing could touch the strength of my love, my 
thoughts, and the image of my beloved. Had 1 known 
then that my wife was dead, I think that I would still 
have given myself, undisturbed by that knowledge, to 
the contemplation of her image, and that my mental 
conversation with her would have been just as vivid 
and just as satisfying. "Set me like a seal upon thy 
heart, love is as strong as death." 

This intensification of inner life helped the prisoner 
find a refuge from the emptiness, desolation and spirit- 


58 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


ual poverty of his existence, by letting him escape into 
the past. When given free rein, his imagination played 
with past events, often not important ones, but minor 
happenings and trifling things. His nostalgic memory 
glorified them and they assumed a strange character. 
Their world and their existence seemed very distant 
and the spirit reached out for them longingly: In my 
mind I took bus rides, unlocked the front door of my 
apartment, answered my telephone, switched on the 
electric lights. Our thoughts often centered on such 
details, and these memories could move one to tears. 

As the inner life of the prisoner tended to become 
more intense, he also experienced the beauty of art 
and nature as never before. Under their influence he 
sometimes even forgot his own frightful circum- 
stances. If someone had seen our faces on the journey 
from Auschwitz to a Bavarian camp as we beheld the 
mountains of Salzburg with their summits glowing in 
the sunset, through the little barred windows of the 
prison carnage, he would never have believed that 
those were the faces of men who had given up all hope 
of life and liberty. Despite that factor - or maybe 
because of it - we were carried away by nature's 
beauty, which we had missed for so long. 

In camp, too, a man might draw the attention of a 
comrade working next to him to a nice view of the 
setting sun shining through the tall trees of the Bavar- 
ian woods (as in the famous water color by Diirer), the 
same woods in which we had built an enormous, 
hidden munitions plant. One evening, when we were 
already resting on the floor of our hut, dead tired, soup 
bowls in hand, a fellow prisoner rushed in and asked 


59 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


us to run out to the assembly grounds and see the 
wonderful sunset. Standing outside we saw sinister 
clouds glowing in the west and the whole sky alive 
with clouds of ever-changing shapes and colors, from 
steel blue to blood red. The desolate grey mud huts 
provided a shaip contrast, while the puddles on the 
muddy ground reflected the glowing sky. Then, after 
minutes of moving silence, one prisoner said to an- 
other, "How beautiful the world could be ! " 

Another time we were at work in a trench. The dawn 
was grey around us; grey was the sky above; grey the 
snow in the pale light of dawn; grey the rags in which 
my fellow prisoners were clad, and grey their faces. 1 
was again conversing silently with my wife, or perhaps 
1 was struggling to find the reason for my sufferings, 
my slow dying. In a last violent protest against the 
hopelessness of imminent death, I sensed my spirit 
piercing through the enveloping gloom. I felt it tran- 
scend that hopeless, meaningless world, and from 
somewhere 1 heard a victorious "Yes" in answer to 
my question of the existence of an ultimate purpose. 
At that moment a light was lit in a distant farmhouse, 
which stood on the horizon as if painted there, in the 
midst of the miserable grey of a dawning morning in 
Bavaria. "Et lux in tenebris lucet" - and the light 
shineth in the darkness. For hours I stood hacking at 
the icy ground. The guard passed by, insulting me, and 
once again I communed with my beloved. More and 
more I felt that she was present, that she was with me; 
I had the feeling that I was able to touch her, able to 
stretch out my hand and grasp hers. The feeling was 
very strong: she was there. Then, at that very mo- 
ment, a bird flew down silently and perched just in 


60 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


front of me, on the heap of soil which I had dug up 
from the ditch, and looked steadily at me. 

Earlier, 1 mentioned art. Is there such a thing in a 
concentration camp? It rather depends on what one 
chooses to call art. A kind of cabaret was improvised 
from time to time. A hut was cleared temporarily, a 
few wooden benches were pushed or nailed together 
and a program was drawn up. In the evening those 
who had fairly good positions in camp - the Capos and 
the workers who did not have to leave camp on distant 
marches - assembled there. They came to have a few 
laughs or perhaps to cry a little; anyway, to forget. 
There were songs, poems, jokes, some with underly- 
ing satire regarding the camp. All were meant to help 
us forget, and they did help. The gatherings were so 
effective that a few ordinary prisoners went to see the 
cabaret in spite of their fatigue even though they 
missed their daily portion of food by going. 

During the half-hour lunch interval when soup 
(which the contractors paid for and for which they did 
not spend much) was ladled out at our work site, we 
were allowed to assemble in an unfinished engine 
room. On entering, everyone got a ladleful of the 
watery soup. While we sipped it greedily, a prisoner 
climbed onto a tub and sang Italian arias. We enjoyed 
the songs, and he was guaranteed a double helping of 
soup, straight "from the bottom" - that meant with 
peas! 

Rewards were given in camp not only for entertain- 
ment, but also for applause. I, for example, could have 
found protection (how lucky I was never in need of it!) 
from the camp's most dreaded Capo, who for more 


61 



MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


than one good reason was known as "The Murderous 
Capo." This is how it happened. One evening I had the 
great honor of being invited again to the room where 
the spiritualistic seance had taken place. There were 
gathered the same intimate friends of the chief doctor 
and, most illegally, the warrant officer from the sanita- 
tion squad was again present. The Murderous Capo 
entered the room by chance, and he was asked to 
recite one of his poems, which had become famous (or 
infamous) in camp. He did not need to be asked twice 
and quickly produced a kind of diary from which he 
began to read samples of his art. I bit my lips till they 
hurt in order to keep from laughing at one of his love 
poems, and very likely that saved my fife. Since I was 
also generous with my applause, my fife might have 
been saved even had 1 been detailed to his working 
party to which 1 had previously been assigned for one 
day - a day that was quite enough for me. It was 
useful, anyway, to be known to The Murderous Capo 
from a favorable angle. So 1 applauded as hard as 1 
could. 

Generally speaking, of course, any pursuit of art in 
camp was somewhat grotesque. I would say that the 
real impression made by anything connected with art 
arose only from the ghostlike contrast between the 
performance and the background of desolate camp 
fife. 1 shall never forget how 1 awoke from the deep 
sleep of exhaustion on my second night in Ausch- 
witz - roused by music. The senior warden of the hut 
had some kind of celebration in his room, which was 
near the entrance of the hut. Tipsy voices bawled 
some hackneyed tunes. Suddenly there was a silence 
and into the night a violin sang a desperately sad 


62 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


tango, an unusual tune not spoiled by frequent playing. 
The violin wept and a part of me wept with it, for on 
that same day someone had a twenty-fourth birthday. 
That someone lay in another paid of the Auschwitz 
camp, possibly only a few hundred or a thousand 
yards away, and yet completely out of reach. That 
someone was my wife. 

To discover that there was any semblance of art in a 
concentration camp must be surprise enough for an 
outsider, but he may be even more astonished to hear 
that one could find a sense of humor there as well; of 
course, only the faint trace of one, and then only for a 
few seconds or minutes. Humor was another of the 
soul's weapons in the fight for self-preservation. It is 
well known that humor, more than anything else in the 
human make-up, can afford an aloofness and an ability 
to rise above any situation, even if only for a few 
seconds. I practically trained a friend of mine who 
worked next to me on the building site to develop a 
sense of humor. I suggested to him that we would 
promise each other to invent at least one amusing 
story daily, about some incident that could happen one 
day after our liberation. He was a surgeon and had 
been an assistant on the staff of a large hospital. So I 
once tried to get him to smile by describing to him how 
he would be unable to lose the habits of camp life when 
he returned to his former work. On the building site 
(especially when the supervisor made his tour of in- 
spection) the foreman encouraged us to work faster by 
shouting: "Action! Action!" I told my friend, "One 
day you will be back in the operating room, perform- 
ing a big abdominal operation. Suddenly an orderly 


63 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


will rush in announcing the arrival of the senior sur- 
geon by shouting, 'Action! Action!' " 

Sometimes the other men invented amusing dreams 
about the future, such as forecasting that during a 
future dinner engagement they might forget them- 
selves when the soup was served and beg the hostess 
to ladle it "from the bottom." 

The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see 
things in a humorous light is some kind of a trick 
learned while mastering the art of living. Yet it is 
possible to practice the art of living even in a concen- 
tration camp, although suffering is omnipresent. To 
draw an analogy: a man's suffering is similar' to the 
behavior of gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped 
into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber com- 
pletely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. 
Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and 
conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is 
great or little. Therefore the "size" of human suffering 
is absolutely relative. 

It also follows that a very trifling thing can cause the 
greatest of joys. Take as an example something that 
happened on ourjourney from Auschwitz to the camp 
affiliated with Dachau. We had all been afraid that our 
transport was heading for the Mauthausen camp. We 
became more and more tense as we approached a 
certain bridge over the Danube which the train would 
have to cross to reach Mauthausen, according to the 
statement of experienced traveling companions. Those 
who have never seen anything similar cannot possibly 
imagine the dance of joy performed in the carriage by 


64 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


the prisoners when they saw that our transport was 
not crossing the bridge and was instead heading 
"only" for Dachau. 

And again, what happened on our arrival in that 
camp, after a journey lasting two days and three 
nights? There had not been enough room for every- 
body to crouch on the floor of the carriage at the same 
time. The majority of us had to stand all the way, while 
a few took turns at squatting on the scanty straw 
which was soaked with human urine. When we arrived 
the first important news that we heard from older 
prisoners was that this comparatively small camp (its 
population was 2,500) had no "oven," no cremato- 
rium, no gas ! That meant that a person who had become 
a "Moslem" could not be taken straight to the gas 
chamber, but would have to wait until a so-called "sick 
convoy" had been arranged to return to Auschwitz. This 
joyful surprise put us all in a good mood. The wish of the 
senior warden of our hut in Auschwitz had come true: 
we had come, as quickly as possible, to a camp which 
did not have a "chimney" - un lik e Auschwitz. We 
laughed and cracked jokes in spite of, and during, all we 
had to go through in the next few hours. 

When we new arrivals were counted, one of us was 
missing. So we had to wait outside in the rain and cold 
wind until the missing man was found. He was at last 
discovered in a hut, where he had fallen asleep from 
exhaustion. Then the roll call was turned into a pun- 
ishment parade. All through the night and late into the 
next morning, we had to stand outside, frozen and 
soaked to the skin after the strain of our long journey. 
And yet we were all very pleased! There was no 


65 



MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


chimney in this camp and Auschwitz was a long way 

off. 

Another time we saw a group of convicts pass our 
work site. How obvious the relativity of all suffering 
appeared to us then! We envied those prisoners their 
relatively well-regulated, secure and happy life. They 
surely had regular opportunities to take baths, we 
thought sadly. They surely had toothbrushes and 
clothesbrushes, mattresses - a separate one for each 
of them - and monthly mail bringing them news of the 
whereabouts of their relatives, or at least of whether 
they were still alive or not. We had lost all that a long 
time ago. 

And how we envied those of us who had the oppor- 
tunity to get into a factory and work in a sheltered 
room! It was everyone's wish to have such a lifesaving 
piece of luck. The scale of relative luck extends even 
further. Even among those detachments outside the 
camp (in one of which 1 was a member) there were 
some units which were considered worse than others. 
One could envy a man who did not have to wade in 
deep, muddy clay on a steep slope emptying the tubs 
of a small field railway for twelve hours daily. Most of 
the daily accidents occurred on this job, and they were 
often fatal. 

In other work parties the foremen maintained an 
apparently local tradition of dealing out numerous 
blows, which made us talk of the relative luck of not 
being under their command, or perhaps of being under 
it only temporarily. Once, by an unlucky chance, I got 
into such a group. If an air raid alarm had not inter- 
rupted us after two hours (during which time the 
foreman had worked on me especially), making it 


66 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


necessary to regroup the workers afterwards, I think 
that I would have returned to camp on one of the 
sledges which carried those who had died or were 
dying from exhaustion. No one can imagine the relief 
that the siren can bring in such a situation; not even a 
boxer who has heard the bell signifying the finish of a 
round and who is thus saved at the last minute from 
the danger of a knockout. 

We were grateful for the smallest of mercies. We 
were glad when there was time to delouse before going 
to bed, although in itself this was no pleasure, as it 
meant standing naked in an unheated hut where icicles 
hung from the ceiling. But we were than kf ul if there 
was no air raid alarm during this operation and the 
lights were not switched off. If we could not do the job 
properly, we were kept awake half the night. 

The meager pleasures of camp life provided a kind 
of negative happiness, - "freedom from suffering," as 
Schopenhauer put it - and even that in a relative way 
only. Real positive pleasures, even small ones, were 
very few. I remember drawing up a kind of balance 
sheet of pleasures one day and finding that in many, 
many past weeks I had experienced only two pleasur- 
able moments. One occurred when, on returning from 
work, I was admitted to the cook house after a long 
wait and was assigned to the line filing up to prisoner- 
cook F — . He stood behind one of the huge pans and 
ladled soup into the bowls which were held out to him 
by the prisoners, who hurriedly filed past. He was the 
only cook who did not look at the men whose bowls he 
was filling; the only cook who dealt out the soup 
equally, regardless of recipient, and who did not make 
favorites of his personal friends or countrymen, pick- 


67 



MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


ing out the potatoes for them, while the others got 
watery soup skimmed from the top. 

But it is not for me to pass judgment on those 
prisoners who put their own people above everyone 
else. Who can throw a stone at a man who favors his 
friends under circumstances when, sooner or later, it 
is a question of life or death? No man should judge 
unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a 
similar situation he might not have done the same. 

Long after I had resumed normal life again (that 
means a long time after my release from camp), some- 
body showed me an illustrated weekly with photo- 
graphs of prisoners lying crowded on their bunks, 
staring dully at a visitor. "Isn't this terrible, the dread- 
ful staring faces - everything about it." 

"Why?" I asked, for I genuinely did not understand. 
For at that moment I saw it all again: at 5:00 A.M. it 
was still pitch dark outside. I was lying on the hard 
boards in an earthen hut where about seventy of us 
were "taken care of." We were sick and did not have 
to leave camp for work; we did not have to go on 
parade. We could lie all day in our little corner in the 
hut and doze and wait for the daily distribution of 
bread (which, of course, was reduced for the sick) and 
for the daily helping of soup (watered down and also 
decreased in quantity). But how content we were; 
happy in spite of everything. While we cowered 
against each other to avoid any unnecessary loss of 
warmth, and were too lazy and disinterested to move a 
finger unnecessarily, we heard shrill whistles and 
shouts from the square where the night shift had just 
returned and was assembling for roll call. The door 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


was flung open, and the snowstorm blew into our hut. 
An exhausted comrade, covered with snow, stumbled 
inside to sit down for a few minutes. But the senior 
warden turned him out again. It was strictly forbidden 
to admit a stranger to a hut while a check-up on the 
men was in progress. How sorry I was for that fellow 
and how glad not to be in his skin at that moment, but 
instead to be sick and able to doze on in the sick 
quarters! What a lifesaver it was to have two days 
there, and perhaps even two extra days after those! 

All this came to my mind when I saw the photo- 
graphs in the magazine. When I explained, my listen- 
ers understood why 1 did not find the photograph so 
terrible: the people shown on it might not have been so 
unhappy after all. 

On my fourth day in the sick quarters 1 had just been 
detailed to the night shift when the chief doctor rushed 
in and asked me to volunteer for medical duties in 
another camp containing typhus patients. Against the 
urgent advice of my friends (and despite the fact that 
almost none of my colleagues offered their services), 1 
decided to volunteer. I knew that in a working party 1 
would die in a short time. But if 1 had to die there 
might at least be some sense in my death. 1 thought 
that it would doubtless be more to the purpose to try 
and help my comrades as a doctor than to vegetate or 
finally lose my life as the unproductive laborer that 1 
was then. 

For me this was simple mathematics, not sacrifice. 
But secretly, the warrant officer from the sanitation 
squad had ordered that the two doctors who had 
volunteered for the typhus camp should be "taken 
care of" till they left. We looked so weak that he 


69 



MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


feared that he might have two additional corpses on his 
hands, rather than two doctors. 

1 mentioned earlier how everything that was not 
connected with the immediate task of keeping oneself 
and one's closest friends alive lost its value. Every- 
thing was sacrificed to this end. A man's character 
became involved to the point that he was caught in a 
mental turmoil which threatened all the values he held 
and threw them into doubt. Under the influence of a 
world which no longer recognized the value of human 
life and human dignity, which had robbed man of his 
will and had made him an object to be exterminated 
(having planned, however, to make full use of him 
first - to the last ounce of his physical resources) - 
under this influence the personal ego finally suffered a 
loss of values. If the man in the concentration camp 
did not struggle against this in a last effort to save his 
self-respect, he lost the feeling of being an individual, a 
being with a mind, with inner freedom and personal 
value. He thought of himself then as only a part of an 
enormous mass of people; his existence descended to 
the level of animal life. The men were herded - some- 
times to one place then to another; sometimes driven 
together, then apart - like a flock of sheep without a 
thought or a will of their own. A small but dangerous 
pack watched them from all sides, well versed in 
methods of torture and sadism. They drove the herd 
incessantly, backwards and forwards, with shouts, 
kicks and blows. And we, the sheep, thought of two 
things only - how to evade the bad dogs and how to get 
a little food. 

Just like sheep that crowd timidly into the center of 


70 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


a herd, each of us tried to get into the middle of our 
formations. That gave one a better chance of avoiding 
the blows of the guards who were marching on either 
side and to the front and rear of our column. The 
central position had the added advantage of affording 
protection against the bitter winds. It was, therefore, 
in an attempt to save one's own skin that one literally 
tried to submerge into the crowd. This was done 
automatically in the formations. But at other times it 
was a very conscious effort on our part - in conform- 
ity with one of the camp's most imperative laws of 
self-preservation: Do not be conspicuous. We tried at 
all times to avoid attracting the attention of the SS. 

There were times, of course, when it was possible, 
and even necessary, to keep away from the crowd. It 
is well known that an enforced community life, in 
which attention is paid to everything one does at all 
times, may result in an irresistible urge to get away, at 
least for a short while. The prisoner craved to be alone 
with himself and his thoughts. He yearned for privacy 
and for solitude. After my transportation to a so-called 
"rest camp," 1 had the rare fortune to find solitude for 
about five minutes at a time. Behind the earthen hut 
where I worked and in which were crowded about fifty 
delirious patients, there was a quiet spot in a corner of 
the double fence of barbed wire surrounding the camp. 
A tent had been improvised there with a few poles and 
branches of trees in order to shelter a half-dozen 
corpses (the daily death rate in the camp). There was 
also a shaft leading to the water pipes. I squatted on 
the wooden lid of this shaft whenever my services 
were not needed. 1 just sat and looked out at the green 
flowering slopes and the distant blue hills of the Bavar- 


71 



MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


ian landscape, framed by the meshes of barbed wire. 1 
dreamed longingly, and my thoughts wandered north 
and northeast, in the direction of my home, but I could 
only see clouds. 

The coipses near me, crawling with lice, did not 
bother me. Only the steps of passing guards could 
rouse me from my dreams; or perhaps it would be a 
call to the sick-bay or to collect a newly arrived supply 
of medicine for my hut - consisting of perhaps five or 
ten tablets of aspirin, to last for several days for fifty 
patients. 1 collected them and then did my rounds, 
feeling the patients' pulses and giving half-tablets to 
the serious cases. But the desperately ill received no 
medicine. It would not have helped, and besides, it 
would have deprived those for whom there was still 
some hope. For light cases, 1 had nothing, except 
perhaps a word of encouragement. In this way 1 
dragged myself from patient to patient, though I my- 
self was weak and exhausted from a serious attack of 
typhus. Then I went back to my lonely place on the 
wood cover of the water shaft. 

This shaft, incidentally, once saved the lives of three 
fellow prisoners. Shortly before liberation, mass trans- 
ports were organized to go to Dachau, and these three 
prisoners wisely tried to avoid the trip. They climbed 
down the shaft and hid there from the guards. I calmly 
sat on the lid, looking innocent and playing a childish 
game of throwing pebbles at the barbed wire. On 
spotting me, the guard hesitated for a moment, but 
then passed on. Soon 1 could tell the three men below 
that the worst danger was over. 


72 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


It is very difficult for an outsider to grasp how very 
little value was placed on human life in camp. The 
camp inmate was hardened, but possibly became more 
conscious of this complete disregard of human exis- 
tence when a convoy of sick men was arranged. The 
emaciated bodies of the sick were thrown on two- 
wheeled carts which were drawn by prisoners for 
many miles, often through snowstorms, to the next 
camp. If one of the sick men had died before the cart 
left, he was thrown on anyway - the list had to be 
correct! The list was the only thing that mattered. A 
man counted only because he had a prison number. 
One literally became a number: dead or alive - that 
was unimportant; the life of a "number" was com- 
pletely irrelevant. What stood behind that number and 
that life mattered even less: the fate, the history, the 
name of the man. In the transport of sick patients that 
I, in my capacity as a doctor, had to accompany from 
one camp in Bavaria to another, there was a young 
prisoner whose brother was not on the list and there- 
fore would have to be left behind. The young man 
begged so long that the camp warden decided to work 
an exchange, and the brother took the place of a man 
who, at the moment, preferred to stay behind. But the 
list had to be correct! That was easy. The brother just 
exchanged numbers with the other prisoner. 

As I have mentioned before, we had no documents; 
everyone was lucky to own his body, which, after all, 
was still breathing. All else about us, i.e.. the rags 
hanging from our gaunt skeletons, was only of interest 
if we were assigned to a transport of sick patients. The 
departing "Moslems" were examined with unabashed 


73 



MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


curiosity to see whether their coats or shoes were not 
better than one's own. After all, their fates were 
sealed. But those who stayed behind in camp, who 
were still capable of some work, had to make use of 
every means to improve their chances of survival. 
They were not sentimental. The prisoners saw them- 
selves completely dependent on the moods of the 
guards - playthings of fate - and this made them even 
less human than the circumstances warranted. 

In Auschwitz 1 had laid down a rule for myself 
which proved to be a good one and which most of my 
comrades later followed. I generally answered all 
kinds of questions truthfully. But I was silent about 
anything that was not expressly asked for. If I were 
asked my age, I gave it. If asked about my profession, 
I said "doctor," but did not elaborate. The first morn- 
ing in Auschwitz an SS officer came to the parade 
ground. We had to fall into separate groups of pris- 
oners: over forty years, under forty years, metal 
workers, mechanics, and so forth. Then we were 
examined for ruptures and some prisoners had to form 
a new group. The group that I was in was driven to 
another hut, where we lined up again. After being 
sorted out once more and having answered questions 
as to my age and profession, I was sent to another 
small group. Once more we were driven to another hut 
and grouped differently. This continued for some time, 
and I became quite unhappy, finding myself among 
strangers who spoke unintelligible foreign languages. 
Then came the last selection, and I found myself back 
in the group that had been with me in the first hut! 


74 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


They had barely noticed that 1 had been sent from hut 
to hut in the meantime. But I was aware that in those 
few minutes fate had passed me in many different 
forms. 

When the transport of sick patients for the "rest 
camp" was organized, my name (that is, my number) 
was put on the list, since a few doctors were needed. 
But no one was convinced that the destination was 
really a rest camp. A few weeks previously the same 
transport had been prepared. Then, too, everyone had 
thought that it was destined for the gas ovens. When it 
was announced that anyone who volunteered for the 
dreaded night shift would be taken off the transport 
list, eighty-two prisoners volunteered immediately. A 
quarter of an hour later the transport was canceled, 
but the eighty-two stayed on the list for the night shift. 
For the majority of them, this meant death within the 
next fortnight. 

Now the transport for the rest camp was arranged 
for the second time. Again no one knew whether this 
was a ruse to obtain the last bit of work from the 
sick - if only for fourteen days - or whether it would 
go to the gas ovens or to a genuine rest camp. The 
chief doctor, who had taken a liking to me, told me 
furtively one evening at a quarter to ten, "I have made 
it known in the orderly room that you can still have 
your name crossed off the list; you may do so up till 
ten o'clock." 

I told him that this was not my way; that 1 had 
learned to let fate take its course. "1 might as well stay 
with my friends," I said. There was a look of pity in his 
eyes, as if he knew. ... He shook my hand silently, as 


75 



MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


though it were a farewell, not for life, but from life. 
Slowly I walked back to my hut. There 1 found a good 
friend waiting for me. 

"You really want to go with them?" he asked sadly. 

"Yes, 1 am going." 

Tears came to his eyes and 1 tried to comfort him. 
Then there was something else to do - to make my 
will: 

"Listen, Otto, if I don't get back home to my wife, 
and if you should see her again, then tell her that 1 
talked of her daily, hourly. You remember. Secondly, 1 
have loved her more than anyone. Thirdly, the short 
time 1 have been married to her outweighs everything, 
even all we have gone through here." 

Otto, where are you now? Are you alive? What has 
happened to you since our last hour together? Did you 
find your wife again? And do you remember how 1 
made you learn my will by heart - word for word - in 
spite of your childlike tears? 

The next morning 1 departed with the transport. 
This time it was not a ruse. We were not heading for 
the gas chambers, and we actually did go to a rest 
camp. Those who had pitied me remained in a camp 
where famine was to rage even more fiercely than in 
our new camp. They tried to save themselves, but they 
only sealed their own fates. Months later, after libera- 
tion, I met a friend from the old camp. He related to 
me how he, as camp policeman, had searched for a 
piece of human flesh that was missing from a pile of 
corpses. He confiscated it from a pot in which he 
found it cooking. Cannibalism had broken out. I had 
left just in time. 

Does this not bring to mind the story of Death in 


76 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


Teheran? A rich and mighty Persian once walked in his 
garden with one of his servants. The servant cried that 
he had just encountered Death, who had threatened 
him. He begged his master to give him his fastest horse 
so that he could make haste and flee to Teheran, which 
he could reach that same evening. The master con- 
sented and the servant galloped off on the horse. On 
returning to his house the master himself met Death, 
and questioned him, "Why did you terrify and 
threaten my servant?" "I did not threaten him; 1 only 
showed surprise in still finding him here when 1 
planned to meet him tonight in Teheran," said Death. 

The camp inmate was frightened of making decisions 
and of taking any sort of initiative whatsoever. This 
was the result of a strong feeling that fate was one's 
master, and that one must not try to influence it in any 
way, but instead let it take its own course. In addition, 
there was a great apathy, which contributed in no 
small part to the feelings of the prisoner. At times, 
lightning decisions had to be made, decisions which 
spelled life or death. The prisoner would have pre- 
ferred to let fate make the choice for him. This escape 
from commitment was most apparent when a prisoner 
had to make the decision for or against an escape 
attempt. In those minutes in which he had to make up 
his mind - and it was always a question of minutes - he 
suffered the tortures of Hell. Should he make the 
attempt to flee? Should he take the risk? 

I, too, experienced this torment. As the battle-front 
drew nearer, I had the opportunity to escape. A col- 
league of mine who had to visit huts outside the camp 
in the course of his medical duties wanted to escape 


77 



MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


and take me with him. Under the pretense of holding a 
consultation about a patient whose illness required a 
specialist's advice, he smuggled me out. Outside the 
camp, a member of a foreign resistance movement was 
to supply us with uniforms and documents. At the last 
moment there were some technical difficulties and we 
had to return to camp once more. We used this oppor- 
tunity to provide ourselves with provisions - a few 
rotten potatoes - and to look for a rucksack. 

We broke into an empty hut of the women's camp, 
which was vacant, as the women had been sent to 
another camp. The hut was in great disorder; it was 
obvious that many women had acquired supplies and 
fled. There were rags, straw, rotting food, and broken 
crockery. Some bowls were still in good condition and 
would have been very valuable to us, but we decided 
not to take them. We knew that lately, as conditions 
had become desperate, they had been used not only 
for food, but also as washbasins and chamber pots. 
(There was a strictly enforced rule against having any 
kind of utensil in the hut. However, some people were 
forced to break this rule, especially the typhus pa- 
tients, who were much too weak to go outside even 
with help.) While I acted as a screen, my friend broke 
into the hut and returned shortly with a rucksack 
which he hid under his coat. He had seen another one 
inside which I was to take. So we changed places and I 
went in. As 1 searched in the rubbish, finding the 
rucksack and even a toothbrush, 1 suddenly saw, 
among all the things that had been left behind, the 
body of a woman. 

I ran back to my hut to collect all my possessions: 
my food bowl, a pair of torn mittens "inherited" from 


78 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


a dead typhus patient, and a few scraps of paper 
covered with shorthand notes (on which, as I men- 
tioned before, I had started to reconstruct the manu- 
script which I lost at Auschwitz). 1 made a quick last 
round of my patients, who were lying huddled on the 
rotten planks of wood on either side of the huts. I came 
to my only countryman, who was almost dying, and 
whose life it had been my ambition to save in spite of 
his condition. I had to keep my intention to escape to 
myself, but my comrade seemed to guess that some- 
thing was wrong (perhaps 1 showed a little nervous- 
ness). In a tired voice he asked me, "You, too, are 
getting out?" I denied it, but I found it difficult to avoid 
his sad look. After my round I returned to him. Again 
a hopeless look greeted me and somehow I felt it to be 
an accusation. The unpleasant feeling that had gripped 
me as soon as I had told my friend I would escape with 
him became more intense. Suddenly I decided to take 
fate into my own hands for once. I ran out of the hut 
and told my friend that I could not go with him. As 
soon as I had told him with finality that I had made up 
my mind to stay with my patients, the unhappy feeling 
left me. I did not know what the following days would 
bring, but I had gained an inward peace that I had 
never experienced before. I returned to the hut, sat 
down on the boards at my countryman's feet and tried 
to comfort him; then I chatted with the others, trying 
to quiet them in their delirium. 

Our last day in camp arrived. As the battle-front 
came nearer, mass transports had taken nearly all the 
prisoners to other camps. The camp authorities, the 
Capos and the cooks had fled. On this day an order 
was given that the camp must be evacuated completely 


79 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


by sunset. Even the few remaining prisoners (the sick, 
a few doctors, and some "nurses") would have to 
leave. At night, the camp was to be set on fire. In the 
afternoon the trucks which were to collect the sick had 
not yet appeared. Instead the camp gates were sud- 
denly closed and the barbed wire closely watched, so 
that no one could attempt an escape. The remaining 
prisoners seemed to be destined to burn with the 
camp. For the second time my friend and I decided to 
escape. 

We had been given an order to bury three men 
outside the barbed-wire fence. We were the only two in 
camp who had strength enough to do the job. Nearly 
all the others lay in the few huts which were still in 
use, prostrate with fever and delirium. We now made 
our plans: along with the first body we would smuggle 
out my friend's rucksack, hiding it in the old laundry 
tub which served as a coffin. When we took out the 
second body we would also carry out my rucksack, 
and on the third trip we intended to make our escape. 
The first two trips went according to plan. After we 
returned, I waited while my friend tried to find a piece 
of bread so that we would have something to eat 
during the next few days in the woods. I waited. 
Minutes passed. I became more and more impatient as 
he did not return. After three years of imprisonment, I 
was picturing freedom joyously, imagining how won- 
derful it would be to run toward the battle-front. But 
we did not get that far. 

The very moment when my friend came back, the 
camp gate was thrown open. A splendid, aluminum- 
colored car, on which were painted large red crosses, 
slowly rolled on to the parade ground. A delegate from 


80 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


the International Red Cross in Geneva had arrived, 
and the camp and its inmates were under his protec- 
tion. The delegate billeted himself in a farmhouse in 
the vicinity, in order to be near the camp at all times in 
case of emergency. Who worried about escape now? 
Boxes with medicines were unloaded from the car, 
cigarettes were distributed, we were photographed 
and joy reigned supreme. Now there was no need for 
us to risk running toward the fighting line. 

In our excitement we had forgotten the third body, 
so we carried it outside and dropped it into the narrow 
grave we had dug for the three corpses. The guard who 
accompanied us - a relatively inoffensive man - sud- 
denly became quite gentle. He saw that the tables 
might be turned and tried to win our goodwill. He 
joined in the short prayers that we offered for the dead 
men before throwing soil over them. After the tension 
and excitement of the past days and hours, those last 
days in our race with death, the words of our prayer 
asking for peace, were as fervent as any ever uttered 
by the human voice. 

And so the last day in camp passed in anticipation of 
freedom. But we had rejoiced too early. The Red 
Cross delegate had assured us that an agreement had 
been signed, and that the camp must not be evacuated. 
But that night the SS arrived with trucks and brought 
an order to clear the camp. The last remaining pris- 
oners were to be taken to a central camp, from which 
they would be sent to Switzerland within forty-eight 
hours - to be exchanged for some prisoners of war. We 
scarcely recognized the SS. They were so friendly, 
trying to persuade us to get in the trucks without fear, 
telling us that we should be grateful for our good luck. 


81 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


Those who were strong enough crowded into the 
trucks and the seriously ill and feeble were lifted up 
with difficulty. My friend and 1 - we did not hide our 
rucksacks now - stood in the last group, from which 
thirteen would be chosen for the next to last truck. 
The chief doctor counted out the requisite number, but 
he omitted the two of us. The thirteen were loaded into 
the truck and we had to stay behind. Surprised, very 
annoyed and disappointed, we blamed the chief doc- 
tor, who excused himself by saying that he had been 
tired and distracted. He said that he had thought we 
still intended to escape. Impatiently we sat down, 
keeping our rucksacks on our backs, and waited with 
the few remaining prisoners for the last truck. We had 
to wait a long time. Finally we lay down on the 
mattresses of the deserted guard-room, exhausted by 
the excitement of the last few hours and days, during 
which we had fluctuated continuously between hope 
and despair. We slept in our clothes and shoes, ready 
for the journey. 

The noise of rifles and cannons woke us; the flashes 
of tracer bullets and gun shots entered the hut. The 
chief doctor dashed in and ordered us to take cover on 
the floor. One prisoner jumped on my stomach from 
the bed above me and with his shoes on. That awak- 
ened me all right ! Then we grasped what was happen- 
ing: the battle-front had reached us! The shooting 
decreased and morning dawned. Outside on the pole at 
the camp gate a white flag floated in the wind. 

Many weeks later we found out that even in those 
last hours fate had toyed with us few remaining pris- 
oners. We found out just how uncertain human deci- 
sions are, especially in matters of life and death. I was 


82 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


confronted with photographs which had been taken in 
a small camp not far from ours. Our friends who had 
thought they were traveling to freedom that night had 
been taken in the trucks to this camp, and there they 
were locked in the huts and burned to death. Their 
partially chaired bodies were recognizable on the pho- 
tograph. 1 thought again of Death in Teheran. 

Apart from its role as a defensive mechanism, the 
prisoners' apathy was also the result of other factors. 
Hunger and lack of sleep contributed to it (as they do 
in normal life, also) and to the general irritability 
which was another characteristic of the prisoners' 
mental state. The lack of sleep was due partly to the 
pestering of vermin which infested the terribly over- 
crowded huts because of the general lack of hygiene 
and sanitation. The fact that we had neither nicotine 
nor caffeine also contributed to the state of apathy and 
irritability. 

Besides these physical causes, there were mental 
ones, in the form of certain complexes. The majority 
of prisoners suffered from a kind of inferiority com- 
plex. We all had once been or had fancied ourselves to 
be "somebody." Now we were treated like complete 
nonentities. (The consciousness of one's inner value is 
anchored in higher, more spiritual things, and cannot 
be shaken by camp life. But how many free men, let 
alone prisoners, possess it?) Without consciously 
thinking about it, the average prisoner felt himself 
utterly degraded. This became obvious when one ob- 
served the contrasts offered by the singular' sociologi- 
cal structure of the camp. The more "prominent" 
prisoners, the Capos, the cooks, the store -keepers and 
the camp policemen, did not, as a rule, feel degraded 


83 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


at all, like the majority of prisoners, but on the con- 
trary - promoted! Some even developed miniature de- 
lusions of grandeur. The mental reaction of the envi- 
ous and grumbling majority toward this favored 
minority found expression in several ways, sometimes 
in jokes. For instance, I heard one prisoner talk to 
another about a Capo, saying, "Imagine! I knew that 
man when he was only the president of a large bank. 
Isn't it fortunate that he has risen so far in the world?" 

Whenever the degraded majority and the promoted 
minority came into conflict ( and there were plenty of 
opportunities for this, starting with the distribution of 
food) the results were explosive. Therefore, the gen- 
eral irritability (whose physical causes were discussed 
above) became most intense when these mental ten- 
sions were added. It is not surprising that this tension 
often ended in a general fight. Since the prisoner 
continually witnessed scenes of beatings, the impulse 
toward violence was increased. I myself felt my fists 
clench when anger came over me while I was famished 
and tired. I was usually very tired, since we had to 
stoke our stove - which we were allowed to keep in 
our hut for the typhus patients - throughout the nights. 
However, some of the most idyllic hours I have ever 
spent were in the middle of the night when all the 
others were delirious or sleeping. I could lie stretched 
out in front of the stove and roast a few pilfered 
potatoes in a fire made from stolen charcoal. But the 
following day I always felt even more tired, insensitive 
and irritable. 


While I was working as a doctor in the typhus block, 
I also had to take the place of the senior block warden 


84 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


who was ill. Therefore, 1 was responsible to the camp 
authority for keeping the hut clean - if "clean" can be 
used to describe such a condition. The pretense at 
inspection to which the hut was frequently submitted 
was more for the purpose of torture than of hygiene. 
More food and a few drugs would have helped, but the 
only concern of the inspectors was whether a piece of 
straw was left in the center corridor, or whether the 
dirty, ragged and verminous blankets of the patients 
were tucked in neatly at their feet. As to the fate of the 
inmates, they were quite unconcerned. If I reported 
smartly, whipping my prison cap from my shorn head 
and clicking my heels, "Hut number VI/9: 52 patients, 
two nursing orderlies, and one doctor," they were 
satisfied. And then they would leave. But until they 
arrived - often they were hours later than announced, 
and sometimes did not come at all - I was forced to 
keep straightening blankets, picking up bits of straw 
which fell from the bunks, and shouting at the poor 
devils who tossed in their beds and threatened to upset 
all my efforts at tidiness and cleanliness. Apathy was 
particularly increased among the feverish patients, so 
that they did not react at all unless they were shouted 
at. Even this failed at times, and then it took tremen- 
dous self-control not to strike them. For one's own 
irritability took on enormous proportions in the face of 
the other's apathy and especially in the face of the 
danger (i.e. , the approaching inspection) which was 
caused by it. 


In attempting this psychological presentation and a 
psychopathological explanation of the typical charac- 
teristics of a concentration camp inmate, I may give 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


the impression that the human being is completely and 
unavoidably influenced by his surroundings. (In this 
case the surroundings being the unique structure of 
camp life, which forced the prisoner to conform his 
conduct to a certain set pattern.) But what about 
human liberty? Is there no spiritual freedom in regal'd 
to behavior and reaction to any given surroundings? Is 
that theory true which would have us believe that man 
is no more than a product of many conditional and 
environmental factors - be they of a biological, psy- 
chological or sociological nature? Is man but an acci- 
dental product of these? Most important, do the pris- 
oners' reactions to the singular world of the 
concentration camp prove that man cannot escape the 
influences of his surroundings? Does man have no 
choice of action in the face of such circumstances? 

We can answer these questions from experience as 
well as on principle. The experiences of camp life 
show that man does have a choice of action. There 
were enough examples, often of a heroic nature, which 
proved that apathy could be overcome, irritability 
suppressed. Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual 
freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terri- 
ble conditions of psychic and physical stress. 

We who lived in concentration camps can remember 
the men who walked through the huts comforting 
others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may 
have been few in number, but they offer sufficient 
proof that everything can be taken from a man but one 
thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose 
one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to 
choose one's own way. 

And there were always choices to make. Every day, 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


every hour, offered the opportunity to make a deci- 
sion, a decision which determined whether you would 
or would not submit to those powers which threatened 
to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; 
which determined whether or not you would become 
the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom 
and dignity to become molded into the form of the 
typical inmate. 

Seen from this point of view, the mental reactions of 
the inmates of a concentration camp must seem more 
to us than the mere expression of certain physical and 
sociological conditions. Even though conditions such 
as lack of sleep, insufficient food and various mental 
stresses may suggest that the inmates were bound to 
react in certain ways, in the final analysis it becomes 
clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was 
the result of an inner decision, and not the result of 
camp influences alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any 
man can, even under such circumstances, decide what 
shall become of him - mentally and spiritually. He 
may retain his human dignity even in a concentration 
camp. Dostoevski said once, "There is only one thing 
that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings." These 
words frequently came to my mind after I became 
acquainted with those martyrs whose behavior in 
camp, whose suffering and death, bore witness to the 
fact that the last inner freedom cannot be lost. It can 
be said that they were worthy of their sufferings; the 
way they bore their suffering was a genuine inner 
achievement. It is this spiritual freedom - which can- 
not be taken away - that makes life meaningful and 
purposeful. 

An active life serves the purpose of giving man the 


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MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


opportunity to realize values in creative work, while a 
passive life of enjoyment affords him the opportunity 
to obtain fulfil lm ent in experiencing beauty, art, or 
nature. But there is also putpose in that life which is 
almost barren of both creation and enjoyment and 
which admits of but one possibility of high moral 
behavior: namely, in man's attitude to his existence, 
an existence restricted by external forces. A creative 
life and a life of enjoyment are banned to him. But not 
only creativeness and enjoyment are meaningful. If 
there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a 
meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part 
of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and 
death human life cannot be complete. 

The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the 
suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his 
cross, gives him ample opportunity - even under the 
most difficult circumstances - to add a deeper meaning 
to his life. It may remain brave, dignified and unselfish. 
Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget 
his human dignity and become no more than an ani- 
mal. Here lies the chance for a man either to make use 
of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral 
values that a difficult situation may afford him. And 
this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or 
not. 

Do not think that these considerations are unworldly 
and too far removed from real life. It is true that only a 
few people are capable of reaching such high moral 
standards. Of the prisoners only a few kept their full 
inner liberty and obtained those values which their 
suffering afforded, but even one such example is suffi- 
cient proof that man’s inner strength may raise him 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


above his outward fate. Such men are not only in 
concentration camps. Everywhere man is confronted 
with fate, with the chance of achieving something 
through his own suffering. 

Take the fate of the sick - especially those who are 
incurable. 1 once read a letter written by a young 
invalid, in which he told a friend that he hadjust found 
out he would not live for long, that even an operation 
would be of no help. He wrote further that he remem- 
bered a film he had seen in which a man was portrayed 
who waited for death in a courageous and dignified 
way. The boy had thought it a great accomplishment to 
meet death so well. Now - he wrote - fate was offering 
him a similar chance. 

Those of us who saw the film called Resurrection - 
taken from a book by Tolstoy - years ago, may have 
had si mi lar thoughts. Here were great destinies and 
great men. For us, at that time, there was no great fate; 
there was no chance to achieve such greatness. After 
the picture we went to the nearest cafe, and over a cup 
of coffee and a sandwich we forgot the strange meta- 
physical thoughts which for one moment had crossed 
our minds. But when we ourselves were confronted 
with a great destiny and faced with the decision of 
meeting it with equal spiritual greatness, by then we 
had forgotten our youthful resolutions of long ago, and 
we failed. 

Perhaps there came a day for some of us when we 
saw the same film again, or a similar one. But by then 
other pictures may have simultaneously unrolled be- 
fore one's inner eye; pictures of people who attained 
much more in their lives than a sentimental film could 
show. Some details of a particular man's inner great- 



MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


ness may have come to one's mind, like the story of 
the young woman whose death 1 witnessed in a con- 
centration camp. It is a simple story. There is little to 
tell and it may sound as if I had invented it; but to me it 
seems like a poem. 

This young woman knew that she would die in the 
next few days. But when 1 talked to her she was 
cheerful in spite of this knowledge. "I am grateful that 
fate has hit me so hard," she told me. "In my former 
life I was spoiled and did not take spiritual accomplish- 
ments seriously." Pointing through the window of the 
hut, she said, "This tree here is the only friend I have 
in my loneliness." Through that window she could see 
just one branch of a chestnut tree, and on the branch 
were two blossoms. "I often talk to this tree," she said 
to me. I was startled and didn't quite know how to 
take her words. Was she delirious? Did she have 
occasional hallucinations? Anxiously 1 asked her if the 
tree replied. "Yes." What did it say to her? She 
answered, "It said to me, 'I am here - 1 am here - 1 am 
life, eternal life.' " 

We have stated that that which was ultimately re- 
sponsible for the state of the prisoner's inner self was 
not so much the enumerated psychophysical causes as 
it was the result of a free decision. Psychological 
observations of the prisoners have shown that only the 
men who allowed their inner hold on their moral and 
spiritual selves to subside eventually fell victim to the 
camp's degenerating influences. The question now 
arises, what could, or should, have constituted this 
"inner hold"? 

Former prisoners, when writing or relating their 


90 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


experiences, agree that the most depressing influence 
of all was that a prisoner could not know how long his 
term of imprisonment would be. He had been given no 
date for his release. (In our camp it was pointless even 
to talk about it.) Actually a prison term was not only 
uncertain but unlimited. A well-known research psy- 
chologist has pointed out that life in a concentration 
camp could be called a "provisional existence." We 
can add to this by defining it as a "provisional exis- 
tence of unknown limit." 

New arrivals usually knew nothing about the condi- 
tions at a camp. Those who had come back from other 
camps were obliged to keep silent, and from some 
camps no one had returned. On entering camp a 
change took place in the minds of the men. With the 
end of uncertainty there came the uncertainty of the 
end. It was impossible to foresee whether or when, if 
at all, this form of existence would end. 

The latin word finis has two meanings: the end or the 
finish, and a goal to reach. A man who could not see 
the end of his "provisional existence" was not able to 
aim at an ultimate goal in life. He ceased living for the 
future, in contrast to a man in normal life. Therefore 
the whole structure of his inner life changed; signs of 
decay set in which we know from other areas of life. 
The unemployed worker, for example, is in a similar' 
position. His existence has become provisional and in 
a certain sense he cannot live for the future or aim at a 
goal. Research work done on unemployed miners has 
shown that they suffer from a peculiar sort of de- 
formed time - inner time - which is a result of their 
unemployed state. Prisoners, too, suffered from this 
strange "time-experience." In camp, a small time unit. 


91 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


a day, for example, filled with hourly tortures and 
fatigue, appeared endless. A larger time unit, perhaps a 
week, seemed to pass very quickly. My comrades 
agreed when 1 said that in camp a day lasted longer 
than a week. How paradoxical was our time-experi- 
ence ! In this connection we are reminded of Thomas 
Mann's The Magic Mountain, which contains some 
very pointed psychological remarks. Mann studies the 
spiritual development of people who are in an analo- 
gous psychological position, i.e., tuberculosis patients 
in a sanatorium who also know no date for their 
release. They experience a similar existence - without 
a future and without a goal. 

One of the prisoners, who on his arrival marched 
with a long column of new inmates from the station to 
the camp, told me later that he had felt as though he 
were marching at his own funeral. His life had seemed 
to him absolutely without future. He regarded it as 
over and done, as if he had already died. This feeling 
of lifelessness was intensified by other causes: in time, 
it was the limitlessness of the term of imprisonment 
which was most acutely felt; in space, the narrow 
limits of the prison. Anything outside the barbed wire 
became remote - out of reach and, in a way, unreal. 
The events and the people outside, all the normal life 
there, had a ghostly aspect for the prisoner. The 
outside life, that is, as much as he could see of it, 
appeared to him almost as it might have to a dead man 
who looked at it from another world. 

A man who let himself decline because he could not 
see any future goal found himself occupied with retro- 
spective thoughts. In a different connection, we have 
already spoken of the tendency there was to look into 
the past, to help make the present, with all its horrors, 


92 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


less real. But in robbing the present of its reality there 
lay a certain danger. It became easy to overlook the 
opportunities to make something positive of camp life, 
opportunities which really did exist. Regarding our 
"provisional existence" as unreal was in itself an 
important factor in causing the prisoners to lose their 
hold on life; everything in a way became pointless. 
Such people forget that often it is just such an excep- 
tionally difficult external situation which gives man the 
opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself. In- 
stead of taking the camp's difficulties as a test of their 
inner strength, they did not take their life seriously and 
despised it as something of no consequence. They 
preferred to close their eyes and to live in the past. 
Life for such people became meaningless. 

Naturally only a few people were capable of reach- 
ing great spiritual heights. But a few were given the 
chance to attain human greatness even through their 
apparent worldly failure and death, an accomplish- 
ment which in ordinary circumstances they would 
never have achieved. To the others of us, the mediocre 
and the half-hearted, the words of Bismarck could be 
applied: "Life is like being at the dentist. You always 
think that the worst is still to come, and yet it is over 
already." Varying this, we could say that most men in 
a concentration camp believed that the real opportuni- 
ties of life had passed. Yet, in reality, there was an 
opportunity and a challenge. One could make a vic- 
tory of those experiences turning life into an inner 
triumph, or one could ignore the challenge and simply 
vegetate, as did a majority of the prisoners. 

Any attempt at fighting the camp's psychopathologi- 
cal influence on the prisoner by psychotherapeutic or 


93 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


psychohygienic methods had to aim at giving him inner 
strength by pointing out to him a future goal to which 
he could look forward. Instinctively some of the pris- 
oners attempted to find one on their own. It is a 
peculiarity of man that he can only live by looking to 
the future - sub specie aetemitatis. And this is his 
salvation in the most difficult moments of his exis- 
tence, although he sometimes has to force his mind to 
the task. 

I remember a personal experience. Almost in tears 
from pain (I had terrible sores on my feet from wearing 
torn shoes), I limped a few kilometers with our long 
column of men from the camp to our work site. Very 
cold, bitter winds struck us. I kept thinking of the 
endless little problems of our miserable life. What 
would there be to eat tonight? If a piece of sausage 
came as extra ration, should I exchange it for a piece 
of bread? Should I trade my last cigarette, which was 
left from a bonus I received a fortnight ago, for a bowl 
of soup? How could I get a piece of wire to replace the 
fragment which served as one of my shoelaces? Would 
I get to our work site in time to join my usual working 
party or would I have to join another, which might 
have a brutal foreman? What could I do to get on good 
terms with the Capo, who could help me to obtain 
work in camp instead of undertaking this horribly long 
daily march? 

I became disgusted with the state of affairs which 
compelled me, daily and hourly, to think of only such 
trivial things. I forced my thoughts to turn to another 
subject. Suddenly I saw myself standing on the plat- 
form of a well-lit, warm and pleasant lecture room. In 
front of me sat an attentive audience on comfortable 


94 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


upholstered seats. 1 was giving a lecture on the psy- 
chology of the concentration camp ! All that oppressed 
me at that moment became objective, seen and de- 
scribed from the remote viewpoint of science. By this 
method 1 succeeded somehow in rising above the 
situation, above the sufferings of the moment, and 1 
observed them as if they were already of the past. 
Both 1 and my troubles became the object of an 
interesting psychoscientific study undertaken by my- 
self. What does Spinoza say in his Ethics? - "Affectus, 
qui passio est, desinit esse passio simulatque eius 
claram et distinctam formamus ideam. " Emotion, 
which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we 
form a clear and precise picture of it. 


The prisoner who had lost faith in the future - his 
future - was doomed. With his loss of belief in the 
future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself 
decline and became subject to mental and physical 
decay. Usually this happened quite suddenly, in the 
form of a crisis, the symptoms of which were familial' 
to the experienced camp inmate. We all feared this 
moment - not for ourselves, which would have been 
pointless, but for our friends. Usually it began with the 
prisoner refusing one morning to get dressed and wash 
or to go out on the parade grounds. No entreaties, no 
blows, no threats had any effect. He just lay there, 
hardly moving. If this crisis was brought about by an 
illness, he refused to be taken to the sick-bay or to do 
anything to help himself. He simply gave up. There he 
remained, lying in his own excreta, and nothing both- 
ered him any more. 


95 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


I once had a dramatic demonstration of the close 
link between the loss of faith in the future and this 
dangerous giving up. F — , my senior block warden, 
a fairly well-known composer and librettist, confided 
in me one day: "I would like to tell you something. 
Doctor. 1 have had a strange dream. A voice told me 
that I could wish for something, that I should only say 
what 1 wanted to know, and all my questions would be 
answered. What do you think 1 asked? That 1 would 
like to know when the war would be over for me. You 
know what 1 mean, Doctor - for me! I wanted to know 
when we, when our camp, would be liberated and our 
sufferings come to an end." 

"And when did you have this dream?" I asked. 

"In February, 1945," he answered. It was then the 
beginning of March. 

"What did your dream voice answer?" 

Furtively he whispered to me, "March thirtieth." 

When F — told me about his dream, he was still 
lull of hope and convinced that the voice of his dream 
would be right. But as the promised day drew nearer, 
the war news which reached our camp made it appeal' 
very unlikely that we would be free on the promised 
date. On March twenty-ninth, F — suddenly became 
ill and ran a high temperature. On March thirtieth, the 
day his prophecy had told him that the war and suffer- 
ing would be over for him, he became delirious and 
lost consciousness. On March thirty-first, he was 
dead. To all outward appearances, he had died of 
typhus. 

Those who know how close the connection is be- 
tween the state of mind of a man - his courage and 


96 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


hope, or lack of them - and the state of immunity of his 
body will understand that the sudden loss of hope and 
courage can have a deadly effect. The ultimate cause 
of my friend's death was that the expected liberation 
did not come and he was severely disappointed. This 
suddenly lowered his body's resistance against the 
latent typhus infection. His faith in the future and his 
will to live had become paralyzed and his body fell 
victim to illness - and thus the voice of his dream was 
right after all. 

The observations of this one case and the conclusion 
drawn from them are in accordance with something 
that was drawn to my attention by the chief doctor of 
our concentration camp. The death rate in the week 
between Christmas, 1944, and New Year's, 1945, in- 
creased in camp beyond all previous experience. In his 
opinion, the explanation for this increase did not lie in 
the harder working conditions or the deterioration of 
our food supplies or a change of weather or new 
epidemics. It was simply that the majority of the 
prisoners had lived in the naive hope that they would 
be home again by Christmas. As the time drew near 
and there was no encouraging news, the prisoners lost 
courage and disappointment overcame them. This had 
a dangerous influence on their powers of resistance 
and a great number of them died. 

As we said before, any attempt to restore a man's 
inner strength in the camp had first to succeed in 
showing him some future goal. Nietzsche's words, 
"He who has a why to live for can bear with almost 
any how," could be the guiding motto for all psy- 
chotherapeutic and psychohygienic efforts regarding 
prisoners. Whenever there was an opportunity for it. 


97 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


one had to give them a why - an aim - for their lives, in 
order to strengthen them to bear the terrible how of 
their existence. Woe to him who saw no more sense in 
his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in 
carrying on. He was soon lost. The typical reply with 
which such a man rejected all encouraging arguments 
was, "1 have nothing to expect from life any more." 
What sort of answer can one give to that? 

What was really needed was a fundamental change 
in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves 
and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, 
that it did not really matter what we expected from life, 
but rather what life expected from us. We needed to 
stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to 
think of ourselves as those who were being questioned 
by life - daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, 
not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in 
right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the re- 
sponsibility to find the right answer to its problems and 
to fu lfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each 
individual. 

These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ 
from man to man, and from moment to moment. Thus 
it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general 
way. Questions about the meaning of life can never be 
answered by sweeping statements. "Life" does not 
mean something vague, but something very real and 
concrete, just as life's tasks are also very real and 
concrete. They form man's destiny, which is different 
and unique for each individual. No man and no destiny 
can be compared with any other man or any other 
destiny. No situation repeats itself, and each situation 
calls for a different response. Sometimes the situation 


98 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


in which a man finds himself may require him to shape 
his own fate by action. At other times it is more 
advantageous for him to make use of an opportunity 
for contemplation and to realize assets in this way. 
Sometimes man may be required simply to accept fate, 
to bear his cross. Every situation is distinguished by 
its uniqueness, and there is always only one right 
answer to the problem posed by the situation at hand. 

When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he 
will have to accept his suffering as his task; his single 
and unique task. He will have to acknowledge the fact 
that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the 
universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or 
suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the 
way in which he bears his burden. 

For us, as prisoners, these thoughts were not specu- 
lations far removed from reality. They were the only 
thoughts that could be of help to us. They kept us from 
despair, even when there seemed to be no chance of 
coming out of it alive. Long ago we had passed the 
stage of asking what was the meaning of life, a naive 
query which understands life as the attaining of some 
aim through the active creation of something of value. 
For us, the meaning of life embraced the wider cycles 
of life and death, of suffering and of dying. 

Once the meaning of suffering had been revealed to 
us, we refused to minimize or alleviate the camp's 
tortures by ignoring them or harboring false illusions 
and entertaining artificial optimism. Suffering had be- 
come a task on which we did not want to turn our 
backs. We had realized its hidden opportunities for 
achievement, the opportunities which caused the poet 
Rilke to write, "Wie vie! ist aufzuleiden!" (How much 


99 



MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


suffering there is to get through!) Rilke spoke of "get- 
ting through suffering" as others would talk of "getting 
through work. " There was plenty of suffering for us to 
get through. Therefore, it was necessary to face up to 
the lull amount of suffering, trying to keep moments of 
weakness and furtive tears to a minimum. But there 
was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore 
witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the 
courage to suffer. Only very few realized that. Shame- 
facedly some confessed occasionally that they had 
wept, like the comrade who answered my question of 
how he had gotten over his edema, by confessing, "1 
have wept it out of my system." 

The tender beginnings of a psychotherapy or psy- 
chohygiene were, when they were possible at all in the 
camp, either individual or collective in nature. The 
individual psychotherapeutic attempts were often a 
kind of "life-saving procedure." These efforts were 
usually concerned with the prevention of suicides. A 
very strict camp ruling forbade any efforts to save a 
man who attempted suicide. It was forbidden, for 
example, to cut down a man who was trying to hang 
himself. Therefore, it was all important to prevent 
these attempts from occurring. 

I remember two cases of would-be suicide, which 
bore a striking similarity to each other. Both men had 
talked of their intentions to commit suicide. Both used 
the typical argument - they had nothing more to ex- 
pect from life. In both cases it was a question of getting 
them to realize that life was still expecting something 
from them; something in the future was expected of 
them. We found, in fact, that for the one it was his 


100 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


child whom he adored and who was waiting for him in 
a foreign country. For the other it was a thing, not a 
person. This man was a scientist and had written a 
series of books which still needed to be finished. His 
work could not be done by anyone else, any more than 
another person could ever take the place of the father 
in his child's affections. 

This uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes 
each individual and gives a meaning to his existence 
has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on 
human love. When the impossibility of replacing a 
person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a 
man has for his existence and its continuance to ap- 
peal' in all its magnitude. A man who becomes con- 
scious of the responsibility he bears toward a human 
being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfin- 
ished work, will never be able to throw away his life. 
He knows the "why" for his existence, and will be 
able to bear almost any "how." 

The opportunities for collective psychotherapy 
were naturally limited in camp. The right example was 
more effective than words could ever be. A senior 
block warden who did not side with the authorities 
had, by his just and encouraging behavior, a thousand 
opportunities to exert a far-reaching moral influence 
on those under his jurisdiction. The immediate influ- 
ence of behavior is always more effective than that of 
words. But at times a word was effective too, when 
mental receptiveness had been intensified by some 
outer circumstances. 1 remember an incident when 
there was occasion for psychotherapeutic work on the 
inmates of a whole hut, due to an intensification of 


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MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


their receptiveness because of a certain external situa- 
tion. 

It had been a bad day. On parade, an announcement 
had been made about the many actions that would, 
from then on, be regarded as sabotage and therefore 
punishable by immediate death by hanging. Among 
these were crimes such as cutting small strips from our 
old blankets (in order to improvise ankle supports) and 
very minor "thefts." A few days previously a semi- 
starved prisoner had broken into the potato store to 
steal a few pounds of potatoes. The theft had been 
discovered and some prisoners had recognized the 
"burglar." When the camp authorities heard about it 
they ordered that the guilty man be given up to them or 
the whole camp would starve for a day. Naturally the 
2,500 men preferred to fast. 

On the evening of this day of fasting we lay in our 
earthen huts - in a very low mood. Very little was said 
and every word sounded irritable. Then, to make 
matters even worse, the light went out. Tempers 
reached their lowest ebb. But our senior block warden 
was a wise man. He improvised a little talk about all 
that was on our minds at that moment. He talked about 
the many comrades who had died in the last few days, 
either of sickness or of suicide. But he also mentioned 
what may have been the real reason for their deaths: 
giving up hope. He maintained that there should be 
some way of preventing possible future victims from 
reaching this extreme state. And it was to me that the 
warden pointed to give this advice. 

God knows, 1 was not in the mood to give psycho- 
logical explanations or to preach any sermons - to 
offer my comrades a kind of medical care of their 


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EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


souls. 1 was cold and hungry, irritable and tired, but 1 
had to make the effort and use this unique opportunity. 
Encouragement was now more necessary than ever. 

So I began by mentioning the most trivial of com- 
forts first. I said that even in this Europe in the sixth 
winter of the Second World War, our situation was not 
the most terrible we could think of. I said that each of 
us had to ask himself what irreplaceable losses he had 
suffered up to then. I speculated that for most of them 
these losses had really been few. Whoever was still 
alive had reason for hope. Health, family, happiness, 
professional abilities, fortune, position in society - all 
these were things that could be achieved again or 
restored. After all, we still had all our bones intact. 
Whatever we had gone through could still be an asset 
to us in the future. And 1 quoted from Nietzsche: 
"Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich starker." 
(That which does not kill me, makes me stronger.) 

Then 1 spoke about the future. 1 said that to the 
impartial the future must seem hopeless. 1 agreed that 
each of us could guess for himself how small were his 
chances of survival. 1 told them that although there 
was still no typhus epidemic in the camp, 1 estimated 
my own chances at about one in twenty. But I also told 
them that, in spite of this, I had no intention of losing 
hope and giving up. For no man knew what the future 
would bring, much less the next hour. Even if we 
could not expect any sensational military events in the 
next few days, who knew better than we, with our 
experience of camps, how great chances sometimes 
opened up, quite suddenly, at least for the individual. 
For instance, one might be attached unexpectedly to a 
special group with exceptionally good working condi- 


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MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


tions - for this was the kind of thing which constituted 
the "luck" of the prisoner. 

But 1 did not only talk of the future and the veil 
which was drawn over it. I also mentioned the past; all 
its joys, and how its light shone even in the present 
darkness. Again 1 quoted a poet - to avoid sounding 
like a preacher myself - who had written, "Was Du 
erlebst, kann keine Maclit der Welt Dir rauben." 
(What you have experienced, no power on earth can 
take from you.) Not only our experiences, but all we 
have done, whatever great thoughts we may have had, 
and all we have suffered, all this is not lost, though it is 
past; we have brought it into being. Having been is 
also a kind of being, and perhaps the surest kind. 

Then I spoke of the many opportunities of giving life 
a meaning. 1 told my comrades (who lay motionless, 
although occasionally a sigh could be heard) that hu- 
man life, under any circumstances, never ceases to 
have a meaning, and that this infinite meaning of life 
includes suffering and dying, privation and death. 1 
asked the poor creatures who listened to me atten- 
tively in the darkness of the hut to face up to the 
seriousness of our position. They must not lose hope 
but should keep their courage in the certainty that the 
hopelessness of our struggle did not detract from its 
dignity and its meaning. 1 said that someone looks 
down on each of us in difficult hours - a friend, a wife, 
somebody alive or dead, or a God - and he would not 
expect us to disappoint him. He would hope to find us 
suffering proudly - not miserably - knowing how to die. 

And finally 1 spoke of our sacrifice, which had 
meaning in every case. It was in the nature of this 
sacrifice that it should appear to be pointless in the 


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normal world, the world of material success. But in 
reality our sacrifice did have a meaning. Those of us 
who had any religious faith, I said frankly, could 
understand without difficulty. I told them of a comrade 
who on his arrival in camp had tried to make a pact 
with Heaven that his suffering and death should save 
the human being he loved from a painful end. For this 
man, suffering and death were meaningful; his was a 
sacrifice of the deepest significance. He did not want 
to die for nothing. None of us wanted that. 

The purpose of my words was to find a full meaning 
in our life, then and there, in that hut and in that 
practically hopeless situation. I saw that my efforts 
had been successful. When the electric bulb flared up 
again, I saw the miserable figures of my friends limping 
toward me to thank me with tears in their eyes. But 1 
have to confess here that only too rarely had I the 
inner strength to make contact with my companions in 
suffering and that 1 must have missed many opportuni- 
ties for doing so. 

We now come to the third stage of a prisoner's 
mental reactions: the psychology of the prisoner after 
his liberation. But prior to that we shall consider a 
question which the psychologist is asked frequently, 
especially when he has personal knowledge of these 
matters: What can you tell us about the psychological 
make-up of the camp guards? How is it possible that 
men of flesh and blood could treat others as so many 
prisoners say they have been treated? Having once 
heal'd these accounts and having come to believe that 
these things did happen, one is bound to ask how, 
psychologically, they could happen. To answer this 


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MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


question without going into great detail, a few things 
must be pointed out: 

First, among the guards there were some sadists, 
sadists in the purest clinical sense. 

Second, these sadists were always selected when a 
really severe detachment of guards was needed. 

There was great joy at our work site when we had 
permission to warm ourselves for a few minutes (after 
two hours of work in the bitter frost) in front of a little 
stove which was fed with twigs and scraps of wood. 
But there were always some foremen who found a 
great pleasure in taking this comfort from us. How 
clearly their faces reflected this pleasure when they 
not only forbade us to stand there but turned over the 
stove and dumped its lovely fire into the snow! When 
the SS took a dislike to a person, there was always 
some special man in their ranks known to have a 
passion for, and to be highly specialized in, sadistic 
torture, to whom the unfortunate prisoner was sent. 

Third, the feelings of the majority of the guards had 
been dulled by the number of years in which, in ever- 
increasing doses, they had witnessed the brutal 
methods of the camp. These morally and mentally 
hardened men at least refused to take active part in 
sadistic measures. But they did not prevent others 
from carrying them out. 

Fourth, it must be stated that even among the 
guards there were some who took pity on us. 1 shall 
only mention the commander of the camp from which I 
was liberated. It was found after the liberation - only 
the camp doctor, a prisoner himself, had known of it 
previously - that this man had paid no small sum of 
money from his own pocket in order to purchase 


106 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


medicines for his prisoners from the nearest market 
town. 1 But the senior camp warden, a prisoner him- 
self, was harder than any of the SS guards. He beat the 
other prisoners at every slightest opportunity, while 
the camp commander, to my knowledge, never once 
lifted his hand against any of us. 

It is apparent that the mere knowledge that a man 
was either a camp guard or a prisoner tells us almost 
nothing. Human kindness can be found in all groups, 
even those which as a whole it would be easy to 
condemn. The boundaries between groups overlapped 
and we must not try to simplify matters by saying that 
these men were angels and those were devils. Cer- 
tainly, it was a considerable achievement for a guard 
or foreman to be kind to the prisoners in spite of all the 

'An interesting incident with reference to this SS commander is in 
regard to the attitude toward him of some of his Jewish prisoners. At 
the end of the war when the American troops liberated the prisoners 
from our camp, three young Hungarian Jews hid this commander in 
the Bavarian woods. Then they went to the commandant of the 
American Forces who was very eager to capture this SS commander 
and they said they would tell him where he was but only under 
certain conditions: the American commander must promise that 
absolutely no harm would come to this man. After a while, the 
American officer finally promised these young Jews that the SS 
commander when taken into captivity would be kept safe font 
harm. Not only did the American officer keep his promise but, as a 
matter of fact, the former SS commander of this concentration camp 
was in a sense restored to his command, for he supervised the 
collection of clothing among the nearby Bavarian villages, and its 
distribution to all of us who at that time still wore the clothes we had 
inherited from other inmates of Camp Auschwitz who were not as 
fortunate as we, having been sent to the gas chamber immediately 
upon their arrival at the railway station. 


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MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


camp's influences, and, on the other hand, the base- 
ness of a prisoner who treated his own companions 
badly was exceptionally contemptible. Obviously the 
prisoners found the lack of character in such men 
especially upsetting, while they were profoundly 
moved by the smallest kindness received from any of 
the guards. 1 remember how one day a foreman se- 
cretly gave me a piece of bread which I knew he must 
have saved from his breakfast ration. It was far more 
than the small piece of bread which moved me to tears 
at that time. It was the human "something" which this 
man also gave to me - the word and look which ac- 
companied the gift. 

From all this we may learn that there are two races 
of men in this world, but only these two - the "race" 
of the decent man and the "race" of the indecent man. 
Both are found everywhere; they penetrate into all 
groups of society. No group consists entirely of decent 
or indecent people. In this sense, no group is of "pure 
race" - and therefore one occasionally found a decent 
fellow among the camp guards. 

Life in a concentration camp tore open the human soul 
and exposed its depths. Is it surprising that in those 
depths we again found only human qualities which in 
their very nature were a mixture of good and evil? The 
rift dividing good from evil, which goes through all 
human beings, reaches into the lowest depths and be- 
comes apparent even on the bottom of the abyss which is 
laid open by the concentration camp. 

And now to the last chapter in the psychology of a 
concentration camp - the psychology of the prisoner 


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who has been released. In describing the experiences 
of liberation, which naturally must be personal, we 
shall pick up the threads of that part of our narrative 
which told of the morning when the white flag was 
hoisted above the camp gates after days of high ten- 
sion. This state of inner suspense was followed 
by total relaxation. But it would be quite wrong to 
think that we went mad with joy. What, then, did 
happen? 

With tired steps we prisoners dragged ourselves to 
the camp gates. Timidly we looked around and glanced 
at each other questioningly. Then we ventured a few 
steps out of camp. This time no orders were shouted at 
us, nor was there any need to duck quickly to avoid a 
blow or kick. Oh no! This time the guards offered us 
cigarettes! We hardly recognized them at first; they 
had hurriedly changed into civilian clothes. We walked 
slowly along the road leading from the camp. Soon our 
legs hurt and threatened to buckle. But we limped on; 
we wanted to see the camp's surroundings for the first 
time with the eyes of free men. "Freedom" - we re- 
peated to ourselves, and yet we could not grasp it. We 
had said this word so often during all the years we 
dreamed about it, that it had lost its meaning. Its 
reality did not penetrate into our consciousness; we 
could not grasp the fact that freedom was ours. 

We came to meadows lull of flowers. We saw and 
realized that they were there, but we had no feelings 
about them. The first spark of joy came when we saw a 
rooster with a tail of multicolored feathers. But it 
remained only a spark; we did not yet belong to this 
world. 


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MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


In the evening when we all met again in our hut, one 
said secretly to the other, "Tell me, were you pleased 
today?" 

And the other replied, feeling ashamed as he did not 
know that we all felt similarly, "Truthfully, no!" We 
had literally lost the ability to feel pleased and had to 
relearn it slowly. 

Psychologically, what was happening to the liber- 
ated prisoners could be called "depersonalization." 
Everything appeared unreal, unlikely, as in a dream. 
We could not believe it was true. How often in the past 
years had we been deceived by dreams! We dreamt 
that the day of liberation had come, that we had been 
set free, had returned home, greeted our friends, em- 
braced our wives, sat down at the table and stalled to 
tell of all the things we had gone through - even of how 
we had often seen the day of liberation in our dreams. 
And then - a whistle shrilled in our ears, the signal to 
get up, and our dreams of freedom came to an end. 
And now the dream had come true. But could we truly 
believe in it? 

The body has fewer inhibitions than the mind. It 
made good use of the new freedom from the first 
moment on. It began to eat ravenously, for hours and 
days, even half the night. It is amazing what quantities 
one can eat. And when one of the prisoners was 
invited out by a friendly farmer in the neighborhood, 
he ate and ate and then drank coffee, which loosened 
his tongue, and he then began to talk, often for hours. 
The pressure which had been on his mind for years 
was released at last. Healing him talk, one got the 


110 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


impression that he had to talk, that his desire to speak 
was irresistible. I have known people who have been 
under heavy pressure only for a short time (for exam- 
ple, through a cross-examination by the Gestapo) to 
have si mi lar reactions. Many days passed, until not 
only the tongue was loosened, but something within 
oneself as well; then feeling suddenly broke through 
the strange fetters which had restrained it. 

One day, a few days after the liberation, 1 walked 
through the country past flowering meadows, for miles 
and miles, toward the market town near the camp. 
Larks rose to the sky and I could hear their joyous 
song. There was no one to be seen for miles around; 
there was nothing but the wide earth and sky and the 
larks' jubilation and the freedom of space. I stopped, 
looked around, and up to the sky - and then I went 
down on my knees. At that moment there was very 
little 1 knew of myself or of the worlds - I had but one 
sentence in mind - always the same: "I called to the 
Lord from my narrow prison and He answered me in 
the freedom of space." 

How long 1 knelt there and repeated this sentence 
memory can no longer recall. But 1 know that on that 
day, in that hour, my new life started. Step for step 1 
progressed, until I again became a human being. 

The way that led from the acute mental tension of 
the last days in camp (from that war of nerves to 
mental peace) was certainly not free from obstacles. It 
would be an error to think that a liberated prisoner was 
not in need of spiritual care any more. We have to 
consider that a man who has been under such enor- 


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MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


mous mental pressure for such a long time is naturally 
in some danger after his liberation, especially since the 
pressure was released quite suddenly. This danger (in 
the sense of psychological hygiene) is the psychologi- 
cal counterpart of the bends. Just as the physical 
health of the caisson worker would be endangered if he 
left his diver's chamber suddenly (where he is under 
enormous atmospheric pressure), so the man who has 
suddenly been liberated from mental pressure can 
suffer damage to his moral and spiritual health. 

During this psychological phase one observed that 
people with natures of a more primitive kind could not 
escape the influences of the brutality which had sur- 
rounded them in camp life. Now, being free, they 
thought they could use their freedom "licentiously and 
ruthlessly. The only thing that had changed for them 
was that they were now the oppressors instead of the 
oppressed. They became instigators, not objects, of 
willful force and injustice. They justified their behavior 
by their own terrible experiences. This was often 
revealed in apparently insignficant events. A friend 
was walking across a field with me toward the camp 
when suddenly we came to a field of green crops. 
Automatically, 1 avoided it. but he drew his arm 
through mine and dragged me through it. 1 stammered 
something about not treading down the young crops. 
He became annoyed, gave me an angry look and 
shouted, "You don't say! And hasn't enough been 
taken from us? My wife and child have been gassed - 
not to mention everything else - and you would forbid 
me to tread on a few stalks of oats!" 

Only slowly could these men be guided back to the 
commonplace truth that no one has the right to do 


112 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


wrong, not even if wrong has been done to them. We 
had to strive to lead them back to this truth, or the 
consequences would have been much worse than the 
loss of a few thousand stalks of oats. I can still see the 
prisoner who rolled up his shirt sleeves, thrust his 
right hand under my nose and shouted, "May this hand 
be cut off if I don't stain it with blood on the day when 
1 get home!" 1 want to emphasize that the man who 
said these words was not a bad fellow. He had been 
the best of comrades in camp and afterwards. 

Apart from the moral deformity resulting from the 
sudden release of mental pressure, there were two 
other fundamental experiences which threatened to 
damage the character of the liberated prisoner: bitter- 
ness and disillusionment when he returned to his 
former life. 

Bitterness was caused by a number of things he 
came up against in his former home town. When, on 
his return, a man found that in many places he was met 
only with a shrug of the shoulders and with hackneyed 
phrases, he tended to become bitter and to ask himself 
why he had gone through all that he had. When he 
heal'd the same phrases nearly everywhere - "We did 
not know about it." and "We, too, have suffered." 
then he asked himself, have they really nothing better 
to say to me? 

The experience of disillusionment is different. Here 
it was not one's fellow man (whose superficiality and 
lack of feeling was so disgusting that one finally felt 
lik e creeping into a hole and neither hearing nor seeing 
human beings any more) but fate itself which seemed 
so cruel. A man who for years had thought he had 
reached the absolute limit of all possible suffering now 


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MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


found that suffering has no limits, and that he could 
suffer still more, and still more intensely. 

When we spoke about attempts to give a man in 
camp mental courage, we said that he had to be shown 
something to look forward to in the future. He had to 
be reminded that life still waited for him, that a human 
being waited for his return. But after liberation? There 
were some men who found that no one awaited them. 
Woe to him who found that the person whose memory 
alone had given him courage in camp did not exist any 
more! Woe to him who, when the day of his dreams 
finally came, found it so different from all he had 
longed for! Perhaps he boarded a trolley, traveled out 
to the home which he had seen for years in his mind, 
and only in his mind, and pressed the bell, just as he 
has longed to do in thousands of dreams, only to find 
that the person who should open the door was not 
there, and would never be there again. 

We all said to each other in camp that there could be 
no earthly happiness which could compensate for all 
we had suffered. We were not hoping for happiness - it 
was not that which gave us courage and gave meaning 
to our suffering, our sacrifices and our dying. And yet 
we were not prepared for unhappiness. This disillu- 
sionment, which awaited not a small number of pris- 
oners, was an experience which these men have found 
very hard to get over and which, for a psychiatrist, is 
also very difficult to help them overcome. But this 
must not be a discouragement to him; on the contrary, 
it should provide an added stimulus. 

But for every one of the liberated prisoners, the day 
comes when, looking back on his camp experiences, 


114 



EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP 


he can no longer understand how he endured it all. As 
the day of his liberation eventually came, when every- 
thing seemed to him like a beautiful dream, so also the 
day comes when all his camp experiences seem to him 
nothing but a nightmare. 

The crowning experience of all, for the homecoming 
man, is the wonderful feeling that, after all he has 
suffered, there is nothing he need fear any more - 
except his God 


115 




PART TWO 


Logotherapy in a 
Nutshell* 




READERS OF MY SHORT AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL STORY 
usually ask for a fuller and more direct explanation of 
my therapeutic doctrine. Accordingly I added a brief 
section on logotherapy to the original edition of From 
Death-Camp to Existentialism. But that was not 
enough, and I have been besieged by requests for a 
more extended treatment. Therefore in the present 
edition I have completely rewritten and considerably 
expanded my account. 

The assignment was not easy. To convey to the 
reader within a short space all the material which 
required twenty volumes in German is an almost hope- 
less task. I am reminded of the American doctor who 
once turned up in my office in Vienna and asked me, 
"Now, Doctor, are you a psychoanalyst?" Where- 
upon I replied, "Not exactly a psychoanalyst; let’s say 
a psychotherapist." Then he continued questioning 

*This part, which has been revised and updated, first appeared as 
"Basic Concepts of Logotherapy" in the 1962 edition of Man's 
Search for Meaning. 


119 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


me: "What school do you stand for?" I answered, "It 
is my own theory; it is called logotherapy." "Can you 
tell me in one sentence what is meant by lo- 
gotherapy?" he asked. "At least, what is the differ- 
ence between psychoanalysis and logotherapy?" 
"Yes," I said, "but in the first place, can you tell me in 
one sentence what you think the essence of psycho- 
analysis is?" This was his answer: "During psychoanal- 
ysis, the patient must lie down on a couch and tell you 
things which sometimes are very disagreeable to tell." 
Whereupon 1 immediately retorted with the following 
improvisation: "Now, in logotherapy the patient may 
remain sitting erect but he must hear things which 
sometimes are very disagreeable to hear." 

Of course, this was meant facetiously and not as a 
capsule version of logotherapy. However, there is 
something in it, inasmuch as logotherapy, in compari- 
son with psychoanalysis, is a method less retrospec- 
tive and less introspective. Logotherapy focuses rather 
on the future, that is to say, on the meanings to be 
fulfilled by the patient in his future. (Logotherapy, 
indeed, is a meaning-centered psychotherapy.) At the 
same time, logotherapy defocuses all the vicious-circle 
formations and feedback mechanisms which play such 
a great role in the development of neuroses. Thus, the 
typical self-centeredness of the neurotic is broken up 
instead of being continually fostered and reinforced. 

To be sure, this kind of statement is an oversimplifi- 
cation; yet in logotherapy the patient is actually con- 
fronted with and reoriented toward the meaning of his 
life. And to make him aware of this meaning can 
contribute much to his ability to overcome his neuro- 
sis. 


120 



LOGOTHERAPY IN A NUTSHELL 


Let me explain why 1 have employed the term 
"logotherapy" as the name for my theory. Logos is a 
Greek word which denotes "meaning." Logotherapy, 
or, as it has been called by some authors, "The Third 
Viennese School of Psychotherapy," focuses on the 
meaning of human existence as well as on man’s 
search for such a meaning. According to logotherapy, 
this striving to find a meaning in one's life is the 
primary motivational force in man. That is why I 
speak of a will to meaning in contrast to the pleasure 
principle (or, as we could also term it, the will to 
pleasure) on which Freudian psychoanalysis is cen- 
tered, as well as in contrast to the will to power on 
which Adlerian psychology, using the term "striving 
for superiority," is focused. 

THE WILL TO MEANING 

Man's search for meaning is the primary motivation 
in his life and not a "secondary rationalization" of 
instinctual drives. This meaning is unique and specific 
in that it must and can be fulfilled by him alone; only 
then does it achieve a significance which will satisfy 
his own will to meaning. There are some authors who 
contend that meanings and values are "nothing but 
defense mechanisms, reaction formations and subli- 
mations." But as for myself, I would not be willing to 
live merely for the sake of my "defense mechanisms," 
nor would I be ready to die merely for the sake of my 
"reaction formations." Man, however, is able to live 
and even to die for the sake of his ideals and values! 

A public-opinion poll was conducted a few years ago 
in France. The results showed that 89 percent of the 


121 



MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


people polled admitted that man needs "something" 
for the sake of which to live. Moreover, 61 percent 
conceded that there was something, or someone, in 
their own lives for whose sake they were even ready to 
die. I repeated this poll at my hospital department in 
Vienna among both the patients and the personnel, 
and the outcome was practically the same as among 
the thousands of people screened in France ; the differ- 
ence was only 2 percent. 

Another statistical survey, of 7,948 students at 
forty-eight colleges, was conducted by social scien- 
tists from Johns Hopkins University. Their prelimi- 
nary report is part of a two-year study sponsored by 
the National Institute of Mental Health. Asked what 
they considered "very-important" to them now, 16 
percent of the students checked "making a lot of 
money"; 78 percent said their first goal was "finding a 
purpose and meaning to my life." 

Of course, there may be some cases in which an 
individual's concern with values is really a camouflage 
of hidden inner conflicts; but, if so, they represent the 
exceptions from the rule rather than the rule itself. In 
these cases we have actually to deal with pseudoval- 
ues, and as such they have to be unmasked. Unmask- 
ing, however, should stop as soon as one is confronted 
with what is authentic and genuine in man, e.g., man's 
desire for a life that is as meaningful as possible. If it 
does not stop then, the only thing that the "unmasking 
psychologist" really unmasks is his own "hidden mo- 
tive" - namely, his unconscious need to debase and 
depreciate what is genuine, what is genuinely human, 
in man. 


122 



LOGOTHERAPY IN A NUTSHELL 


EXISTENTIAL FRUSTRATION 

Man's will to meaning can also be frustrated, in 
which case logotherapy speaks of "existential frustra- 
tion." The term "existential" may be used in three 
ways: to refer to (1) existence itself, i.e., the specifi- 
cally human mode of being; (2) the meaning of exis- 
tence; and (3) the striving to find a concrete meaning in 
personal existence, that is to say, the will to meaning. 

Existential frustration can also result in neuroses. 
For this type of neuroses, logotherapy has coined the 
term "noogenic neuroses" in contrast to neuroses in 
the traditional sense of the word, i.e., psychogenic 
neuroses. Noogenic neuroses have their origin not in 
the psychological but rather in the "noological" (from 
the Greek nods meaning mind) dimension of human 
existence. This is another logotherapeutic term which 
denotes anything pertaining to the specifically human 
dimension. 


NOOGENIC NEUROSES 

Noogenic neuroses do not emerge from conflicts 
between drives and instincts but rather from existen- 
tial problems. Among such problems, the frustration 
of the will to meaning plays a large role. 

It is obvious that in noogenic cases the appropriate 
and adequate therapy is not psychotherapy in general 
but rather logotherapy; a therapy, that is, which dares 
to enter the specifically human dimension. 

Let me quote the following instance: A high-ranking 
American diplomat came to my office in Vienna in 


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MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


order to continue psychoanalytic treatment which he 
had begun five years previously with an analyst in 
New York. At the outset 1 asked him why he thought 
he should be analyzed, why his analysis had been 
started in the first place. It turned out that the patient 
was discontented with his career and found it most 
difficult to comply with American foreign policy. His 
analyst, however, had told him again and again that he 
should try to reconcile himself with his father; because 
the government of the U.S. as well as his superiors 
were "nothing but" father images and, consequently, 
his dissatisfaction with his job was due to the hatred he 
unconsciously harbored toward his father. Through an 
analysis lasting five years, the patient had been 
prompted more and more to accept his analyst's inter- 
pretations until he finally was unable to see the forest 
of reality for the trees of symbols and images. After a 
few interviews, it was clear that his will to meaning 
was frustrated by his vocation, and he actually longed 
to be engaged in some other kind of work. As there 
was no reason for not giving up his profession and 
embarking on a different one, he did so, with most 
gratifying results. He has remained contented in this 
new occupation for over five years, as he recently 
reported. 1 doubt that, in this case, 1 was dealing with 
a neurotic condition at all, and that is why 1 thought 
that he did not need any psychotherapy, nor even 
logotherapy, for the simple reason that he was not 
actually a patient. Not every conflict is necessarily 
neurotic; some amount of conflict is normal and 
healthy. In a similar' sense suffering is not always a 
pathological phenomenon; rather than being a symp- 


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tom of neurosis, suffering may well be a human 
achievement, especially if the suffering grows out of 
existential frustration. 1 would strictly deny that one's 
search for a meaning to his existence, or even his 
doubt of it, in every case is derived from, or results in, 
any disease. Existential frustration is in itself neither 
pathological nor pathogenic. A man's concern, even 
his despair, over the worthwhileness of life is an 
existential distress but by no means a mental disease. 
It may well be that interpreting the first in terms of the 
latter motivates a doctor to bury his patient’s existen- 
tial despair under a heap of tranquilizing drugs. It is his 
task, rather, to pilot the patient through his existential 
crisis of growth and development. 

Logotherapy regards its assignment as that of assist- 
ing the patient to find meaning in his life. Inasmuch as 
logotherapy makes him aware of the hidden logos of 
his existence, it is an analytical process. To this extent, 
logotherapy resembles psychoanalysis. However, in 
logotherapy's attempt to make something conscious 
again it does not restrict its activity to instinctual facts 
within the individual's unconscious but also cares for 
existential realities, such as the potential meaning of 
his existence to be fu lf illed as well as his will to 
meaning. Any analysis, however, even when it re- 
frains from including the noological dimension in its 
therapeutic process, tries to make the patient aware of 
what he actually longs for in the depth of his being. 
Logotherapy deviates from psychoanalysis insofar as 
it considers man a being whose main concern consists 
in fulfilling a meaning, rather than in the mere gratifica- 
tion and satisfaction of drives and instincts, or in 


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merely reconciling the conflicting claims of id, ego and 
superego, or in the mere adaptation and adjustment to 
society and environment. 

NOO-DYNAMICS 

To be sure, man's search for meaning may arouse 
inner tension rather than inner equilibrium. However, 
precisely such tension is an indispensable prerequisite 
of mental health. There is nothing in the world, I 
venture to say, that would so effectively help one to 
survive even the worst conditions as the knowledge 
that there is a meaning in one's life. There is much 
wisdom in the words of Nietzsche: "He who has a why 
to live for can bear almost any how. " I can see in these 
words a motto which holds true for any psychother- 
apy. In the Nazi concentration camps, one could have 
witnessed that those who knew that there was a task 
waiting for them to fu lfill were most apt to survive. 
The same conclusion has since been reached by other 
authors of books on concentration camps, and also by 
psychiatric investigations into Japanese, North Ko- 
rean and North Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camps. 

As for myself, when I was taken to the concentra- 
tion camp of Auschwitz, a manuscript of mine ready 
for publication was confiscated . 1 Certainly, my deep 
desire to write this manuscript anew helped me to 
survive the rigors of the camps I was in. For instance, 
when in a camp in Bavaria I fell ill with typhus fever, I 

'it was the first version of my first book, the English translation of 
which was published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, in 1955, under 
the title The Doctor and the Soul: An Introduction to Logotherapy. 


126 



LOGOTHERAPY IN A NUTSHELL 


jotted down on little scraps of paper many notes 
intended to enable me to rewrite the manuscript, 
should I live to the day of liberation. I am sure that this 
reconstruction of my lost manuscript in the dark bar- 
racks of a Bavarian concentration camp assisted me in 
overcoming the danger of cardiovascular collapse. 

Thus it can be seen that mental health is based on a 
certain degree of tension, the tension between what 
one has already achieved and what one still ought to 
accomplish, or the gap between what one is and what 
one should become. Such a tension is inherent in the 
human being and therefore is indispensable to mental 
well-being. We should not, then, be hesitant about 
challenging man with a potential meaning for him to 
fulfill. It is only thus that we evoke his will to meaning 
from its state of latency. 1 consider it a dangerous 
misconception of mental hygiene to assume that what 
man needs in the first place is equilibrium or, as it is 
called in biology, "homeostasis," i.e., a tensionless 
state. What man actually needs is not a tensionless 
state but rather the striving and struggling for a 
worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is 
not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a 
potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him. What 
man needs is not homeostasis but what I call "nob- 
dynamics," i.e., the existential dynamics in a polar 
field of tension where one pole is represented by a 
meaning that is to be fulfilled and the other pole by the 
man who has to fu lfill it. And one should not think that 
this holds true only for normal conditions; in neurotic 
individuals, it is even more valid. If architects want to 
strengthen a decrepit arch, they increase the load 
which is laid upon it, for thereby the parts are joined 


127 



MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


more firmly together. So if therapists wish to foster 
their patients' mental health, they should not be afraid 
to create a sound amount of tension through a reorien- 
tation toward the meaning of one's life. 

Having shown the beneficial impact of meaning 
orientation, 1 turn to the detrimental influence of that 
feeling of which so many patients complain today, 
namely the feeling of the total and ultimate meaning- 
lessness of their lives. They lack the awareness of a 
meaning worth living for. They are haunted by the 
experience of their inner emptiness, a void within 
themselves; they are caught in that situation which 1 
have called the "existential vacuum." 

THE EXISTENTIAL VACUUM 

The existential vacuum is a widespread phenome- 
non of the twentieth century. This is understandable; it 
may be due to a twofold loss which man has had to 
undergo since he became a truly human being. At the 
beginning of human history, man lost some of the basic 
animal instincts in which an animal's behavior is im- 
bedded and by which it is secured. Such security, like 
Paradise, is closed to man forever; man has to make 
choices. In addition to this, however, man has suffered 
another loss in his more recent development inasmuch 
as the traditions which buttressed his behavior are 
now rapidly diminishing. No instinct tells him what he 
has to do, and no tradition tells him what he ought to 
do; sometimes he does not even know what he wishes 
to do. Instead, he either wishes to do what other 
people do (conformism) or he does what other people 
wish him to do (totalitarianism). 


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A statistical survey recently revealed that among my 
European students, 25 percent showed a more-or-less 
marked degree of existential vacuum. Among my 
American students it was not 25 but 60 percent. 

The existential vacuum manifests itself mainly in a 
state of boredom. Now we can understand Scho- 
penhauer when he said that mankind was apparently 
doomed to vacillate eternally between the two ex- 
tremes of distress and boredom. In actual fact, bore- 
dom is now causing, and certainly bringing to psychia- 
trists, more problems to solve than distress. And these 
problems are growing increasingly crucial, for progres- 
sive automation will probably lead to an enormous 
increase in the leisure hours available to the average 
worker. The pity of it is that many of these will not 
know what to do with all their newly acquired free 
time. 

Let us consider, for instance, "Sunday neurosis," 
that kind of depression which afflicts people who 
become aware of the lack of content in their lives when 
the rush of the busy week is over and the void within 
themselves becomes manifest. Not a few cases of 
suicide can be traced back to this existential vacuum. 
Such widespread phenomena as depression, aggres- 
sion and addiction are not understandable unless we 
recognize the existential vacuum underlying them. 
This is also true of the crises of pensioners and aging 
people. 

Moreover, there are various masks and guises under 
which the existential vacuum appears. Sometimes the 
frustrated will to meaning is vicariously compensated 
for by a will to power, including the most primitive 
form of the will to power, the will to money. In other 


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MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


cases, the place of frustrated will to meaning is taken 
by the will to pleasure. That is why existential frustra- 
tion often eventuates in sexual compensation. We can 
observe in such cases that the sexual libido becomes 
rampant in the existential vacuum. 

An analogous event occurs in neurotic cases. There 
are certain types of feedback mechanisms and vicious- 
circle formations which I will touch upon later. One 
can observe again and again, however, that this symp- 
tomatology has invaded an existential vacuum wherein 
it then continues to flourish. In such patients, what we 
have to deal with is not a noogenic neurosis. However, 
we will never succeed in having the patient overcome 
his condition if we have not supplemented the psy- 
chotherapeutic treatment with logotherapy. For by 
filling the existential vacuum, the patient will be pre- 
vented from suffering further relapses. Therefore, lo- 
gotherapy is indicated not only in noogenic cases, as 
pointed out above, but also in psychogenic cases, and 
sometimes even the somatogenic (pseudo-) neuroses. 
Viewed in this light, a statement once made by Magda 
B. Arnold is justified: "Every therapy must in some 
way, no matter how restricted, also be logotherapy ." 2 

Let us now consider what we can do if a patient asks 
what the meaning of his life is. 

THE MEANING OF LIFE 

I doubt whether a doctor can answer this question in 
general terms. For the meaning of life differs from man 


2 Magda B. Arnold and John A. Gasson, The Human Person, 
Ronald Press, New York, 1954, p. 618. 


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LOGOTHERAPY IN A NUTSHELL 


to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What 
matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general 
but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a 
given moment. To put the question in general terms 
would be comparable to the question posed to a chess 
champion: "Tell me. Master, what is the best move in 
the world?" There simply is no such thing as the best 
or even a good move apart from a particular' situation 
in a game and the particular personality of one's 
opponent. The same holds for human existence. One 
should not search for an abstract meaning of life. 
Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in 
life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands 
fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his 
life be repeated. Thus, everyone's task is as unique as 
is his specific opportunity to implement it. 

As each situation in life represents a challenge to 
man and presents a problem for him to solve, the 
question of the meaning of life may actually be re- 
versed. Ultimately, man should not ask what the 
meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that 
it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is ques- 
tioned by life; and he can only answer to life by 
answering for his own life; to life he can only respond 
by being responsible. Thus, logotherapy sees in re- 
sponsibleness the very essence of human existence. 


THE ESSENCE OF EXISTENCE 

This emphasis on responsibleness is reflected in the 
categorical imperative of logotherapy, which is: "Live 


131 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


as if you were living already for the second time and as 
if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are 
about to act now ! " It seems to me that there is nothing 
which would stimulate a man's sense of responsible- 
ness more than this maxim, which invites him to 
imagine first that the present is past and, second, that 
the past may yet be changed and amended. Such a 
precept confronts him with life's finiteness as well as 
the finality of what he makes out of both his life and 
himself. 

Logotherapy tries to make the patient fully aware of 
his own responsibleness; therefore, it must leave to 
him the option for what, to what, or to whom he 
understands himself to be responsible. That is why a 
logotherapist is the least tempted of all psychothera- 
pists to impose value judgments on his patients, for 
he will never permit the patient to pass to the doctor 
the responsibility of judging. 

It is, therefore, up to the patient to decide whether 
he should interpret his life task as being responsible to 
society or to his own conscience. There are people, 
however, who do not interpret their own lives merely 
in terms of a task assigned to them but also in terms of 
the taskmaster who has assigned it to them. 

Logotherapy is neither teaching nor preaching. It is 
as far removed from logical reasoning as it is from 
moral exhortation. To put it figuratively, the role 
played by a logotherapist is that of an eye specialist 
rather than that of a painter. A painter tries to convey 
to us a picture of the world as he sees it; an ophthal- 
mologist tries to enable us to see the world as it really 
is. The logotherapist’s role consists of widening and 


132 



LOGOTHERAPY IN A NUTSHELL 


broadening the visual field of the patient so that the 
whole spectrum of potential meaning becomes con- 
scious and visible to him. 

By declaring that man is responsible and must actu- 
alize the potential meaning of his life, I wish to stress 
that the true meaning of life is to be discovered in the 
world rather than within man or his own psyche, as 
though it were a closed system. 1 have termed this 
constitutive characteristic "the self-transcendence of 
human existence." It denotes the fact that being hu- 
man always points, and is directed, to something, or 
someone, other than oneself - be it a meaning to fulfill 
or another human being to encounter. The more one 
forgets himself - by giving himself to a cause to serve 
or another person to love - the more human he is and 
the more he actualizes himself. What is called self- 
actualization is not an attainable aim at all, for the 
simple reason that the more one would strive for it, the 
more he would miss it. In other words, self-actualiza- 
tion is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcen- 
dence. 

Thus far we have shown that the meaning of life 
always changes, but that it never ceases to be. Accord- 
ing to logotherapy, we can discover this meaning in life 
in three different ways: (1) by creating a work or doing 
a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering 
someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward 
unavoidable suffering. The first, the way of achieve- 
ment or accomplishment, is quite obvious. The second 
and third need further elaboration. 

The second way of finding a meaning in life is by 
experiencing something - such as goodness, truth and 


133 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


beauty - by experiencing nature and culture or, last 
but not least, by experiencing another human being in 
his very uniqueness - by loving him. 

THE MEANING OF LOVE 

Love is the only way to grasp another human being 
in the innermost core of his personality. No one can 
become fully aware of the very essence of another 
human being unless he loves him. By his love he is 
enabled to see the essential traits and features in the 
beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is 
potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet 
ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the 
loving person enables the beloved person to actualize 
these potentialities. By making him aware of what he 
can be and of what he should become, he makes these 
potentialities come true. 

In logotherapy, love is not interpreted as a mere 
epiphenomencn of sexual drives and instincts in the 
sense of a so-called sublimation. Love is as primary a 
phenomenon as sex. Normally, sex is a mode of 
expression for love. Sex is justified, even sanctified, as 
soon as, but only as long as, it is a vehicle of love. 
Thus love is not understood as a mere side-effect of 
sex; rather, sex is a way of expressing the experience 
of that ultimate togetherness which is called love. 

The third way of finding a meaning in life is by 
suffering. 

3 A phenomenon that occurs as the result of a primary phenome- 
non. 


134 



LOGOTHERAPY IN A NUTSHELL 


THE MEANING OF SUFFERING 

We must never forget that we may also find meaning 
in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, 
when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what 
then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human 
potential at its best, which is to transform a personal 
tragedy into a triumph, to turn one's predicament into 
a human achievement. When we are no longer able to 
change a situation - just think of an incurable disease 
such as inoperable cancer - we are challenged to 
change ourselves. 

Let me cite a clear-cut example: Once, an elderly 
general practitioner consulted me because of his se- 
vere depression. He could not overcome the loss of his 
wife who had died two years before and whom he had 
loved above all else. Now, how could I help him? 
What should 1 tell him? Well, 1 refrained from telling 
him anything but instead confronted him with the 
question, "What would have happened, Doctor, if you 
had died first, and your wife would have had to survive 
you?" "Oh," he said, "for her this would have been 
terrible; how she would have suffered!" Whereupon 1 
replied, "You see, Doctor, such a suffering has been 
spared her, and it was you who have spared her this 
suffering - to be sure, at the price that now you have to 
survive and mourn her." He said no word but shook 
my hand and calmly left my office. In some way, 
suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a 
meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice. 

Of course, this was no therapy in the proper sense 
since, first, his despair was no disease; and second, 1 


135 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


could not change his fate; 1 could not revive his wife. 
But in that moment I did succeed in changing his 
attitude toward his unalterable fate inasmuch as from 
that time on he could at least see a meaning in his 
suffering. It is one of the basic tenets of logotherapy 
that man's main concern is not to gain pleasure or to 
avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life. That 
is why man is even ready to suffer, on the condition, to 
be sure, that his suffering has a meaning. 

But let me make it perfectly clear that in no way is 
suffering necessary to find meaning. I only insist that 
meaning is possible even in spite of suffering - pro- 
vided, certainly, that the suffering is unavoidable. If it 
were avoidable, however, the meaningful thing to do 
would be to remove its cause, be it psychological, 
biological or political. To suffer unnecessarily is maso- 
chistic rather than heroic. 

Edith Weisskopf-Joelson, before her death profes- 
sor of psychology at the University of Georgia, con- 
tended, in her article on logotherapy, that "our current 
mental-hygiene philosophy stresses the idea that peo- 
ple ought to be happy, that unhappiness is a symptom 
of maladjustment. Such a value system might be re- 
sponsible for the fact that the burden of unavoidable 
unhappiness is increased by unhappiness about being 
unhappy." 4 And in another paper she expressed the 
hope that logotherapy "may help counteract certain 
unhealthy trends in the present-day culture of the 
United States, where the incurable sufferer is given 
very little opportunity to be proud of his suffering and 


4 "Some Comments on a Viennese School of Psychiatry," The 
Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 51 (1955), pp. 701 - 3 


136 



LOGOTHERAPY IN A NUTSHELL 


to consider it ennobling rather than degrading" so that 
"he is not only unhappy, but also ashamed of being 
unhappy ." 5 

There are situations in which one is cut off from the 
opportunity to do one's work or to enjoy one's life; but 
what never can be ruled out is the unavoidability of 
suffering. In accepting this challenge to suffer bravely, 
life has a meaning up to the last moment, and it retains 
this meaning literally to the end. In other words, life's 
meaning is an unconditional one, for it even includes 
the potential meaning of unavoidable suffering. 

Let me recall that which was perhaps the deepest 
experience I had in the concentration camp. The odds 
of surviving the camp were no more than one in 
twenty-eight, as can easily be verified by exact statis- 
tics. It did not even seem possible, let alone probable, 
that the manuscript of my first book, which I had 
hidden in my coat when I arrived at Auschwitz, would 
ever be rescued. Thus, I had to undergo and to over- 
come the loss of my mental child. And now it seemed 
as if nothing and no one would survive me; neither a 
physical nor a mental child of my own! So I found 
myself confronted with the question whether under 
such circumstances my life was ultimately void of any 
meaning. 

Not yet did I notice that an answer to this question 
with which I was wrestling so passionately was already 
in store for me, and that soon thereafter this answer 
would be given to me. This was the case when I had to 
surrender my clothes and in turn inherited the worn- 

5 "Logotherapy and Existential Analysis," Acta Psychothera- 
peutica, 6 (1958), pp. 193-204. 


137 



MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


out rags of an inmate who had already been sent to the 
gas chamber immediately after his arrival at the 
Auschwitz railway station. Instead of the many pages 
of my manuscript, I found in a pocket of the newly 
acquired coat one single page torn out of a Hebrew 
prayer book, containing the most important Jewish 
prayer, Shema Yisrael. How should I have interpreted 
such a "coincidence" other than as a challenge to live 
my thoughts instead of merely putting them on paper? 

A bit later, I remember, it seemed to me that I would 
die in the near future. In this critical situation, how- 
ever, my concern was different from that of most of 
my comrades. Their question was, "Will we survive 
the camp? For, if not, all this suffering has no mean- 
ing." The question which beset me was, "Has all this 
suffering, this dying around us, a meaning? For, if not, 
then ultimately there is no meaning to survival; for a 
life whose meaning depends upon such a happen- 
stance - as whether one escapes or not - ultimately 
would not be worth living at all." 


META-CLINICAL PROBLEMS 

More and more, a psychiatrist is approached today 
by patients who confront him with human problems 
rather than neurotic symptoms. Some of the people 
who nowadays call on a psychiatrist would have seen a 
pastor, priest or rabbi in former days. Now they often 
refuse to be handed over to a clergyman and instead 
confront the doctor with questions such as, "What is 
the meaning of my life?" 


138 



LOGOTHERAPY IN A NUTSHELL 


A LOGODRAMA 

I should like to cite the following instance: Once, the 
mother of a boy who had died at the age of eleven 
years was admitted to my hospital department after a 
suicide attempt. Dr. Kurt Kocourek invited her to join 
a therapeutic group, and it happened that 1 stepped 
into the room where he was conducting a psycho- 
drama. She was telling her story. At the death of her 
boy she was left alone with another, older son, who 
was crippled, suffering from the effects of infantile 
paralysis. The poor boy had to be moved around in a 
wheelchair. His mother, however, rebelled against her 
fate. But when she tried to commit suicide together 
with him, it was the crippled son who prevented her 
from doing so; he liked living! For him, life had 
remained meaningful. Why was it not so for his 
mother? How could her life still have a meaning? And 
how could we help her to become aware of it? 

Improvising, I participated in the discussion, and 
questioned another woman in the group. I asked her 
how old she was and she answered, "Thirty." I re- 
plied, "No, you are not thirty but instead eighty and 
lying on your deathbed. And now you are looking back 
on your life, a life which was childless but lull of 
financial success and social prestige." And then I 
invited her to imagine what she would feel in this 
situation. "What will you think of it? What will you 
say to yourself?" Let me quote what she actually said 
from a tape which was recorded during that session. 
"Oh, I married a millionaire, I had an easy life lull of 
wealth, and I lived it up! 1 flirted with men; 1 teased 
them! But now I am eighty; I have no children of my 


139 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


own. Looking back as an old woman, 1 cannot see 
what all that was for; actually, 1 must say, my life was 
a failure!" 

1 then invited the mother of the handicapped son to 
imagine herself similarly looking back over her life. 
Let us listen to what she had to say as recorded on the 
tape: "1 wished to have children and this wish has 
been granted to me; one boy died; the other, however, 
the crippled one, would have been sent to an institu- 
tion if I had not taken over his care. Though he is 
crippled and helpless, he is after all my boy. And so 1 
have made a fuller life possible for him; I have made a 
better human being out of my son." At this moment, 
there was an outburst of tears and, crying, she contin- 
ued: "As for myself, I can look back peacefully on my 
life; for 1 can say my life was full of meaning, and 1 
have tried hard to fulf ill it; 1 have done my best - 1 
have done the best for my son. My life was no fail- 
ure ! " Viewing her life as if from her deathbed, she had 
suddenly been able to see a meaning in it, a meaning 
which even included all of her sufferings. By the same 
token, however, it had become clear as well that a life 
of short duration, like that, for example, of her dead 
boy, could be so rich in joy and love that it could 
contain more meaning than a life lasting eighty years. 

After a while I proceeded to another question, this 
time addressing myself to the whole group. The ques- 
tion was whether an ape which was being used to 
develop poliomyelitis serum, and for this reason punc- 
tured again and again, would ever be able to grasp the 
meaning of its suffering. Unanimously, the group re- 
plied that of course it would not; with its limited 
intelligence, it could not enter into the world of man. 


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LOGOTHERAPY IN A NUTSHELL 


i.e., the only world in which the meaning of its suffer- 
ing would be understandable. Then I pushed forward 
with the following question: "And what about man? 
Are you sure that the human world is a terminal point 
in the evolution of the cosmos? Is it not conceivable 
that there is still another dimension, a world beyond 
man's world; a world in which the question of an 
ultimate meaning of human suffering would find an 
answer?" 


THE SUPER-MEANING 

This ultimate meaning necessarily exceeds and sur- 
passes the finite intellectual capacities of man; in 
logotherapy, we speak in this context of a super- 
meaning. What is demanded of man is not, as some 
existential philosophers teach, to endure the meaning- 
lessness of life, but rather to bear his incapacity to 
grasp its unconditional meaningfulness in rational 
terms. Logos is deeper than logic. 

A psychiatrist who goes beyond the concept of the 
super-meaning will sooner or later be embarrassed by 
his patients, just as 1 was when my daughter at about 
six years of age asked me the question, "Why do we 
speak of the good Lord?" Whereupon I said, "Some 
weeks ago, you were suffering from measles, and then 
the good Lord sent you full recovery." However, the 
little girl was not content; she retorted, "Well, but 
please, Daddy, do not forget: in the first place, he had 
sent me the measles." 

However, when a patient stands on the firm ground 
of religious belief, there can be no objection to making 
use of the therapeutic effect of his religious convic- 


141 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


tions and thereby drawing upon his spiritual resources. 
In order to do so, the psychiatrist may put himself in 
the place of the patient. That is exactly what I did 
once, for instance, when a rabbi from Eastern Europe 
turned to me and told me his story. He had lost his 
first wife and their six children in the concentration 
camp of Auschwitz where they were gassed, and now 
it turned out that his second wife was sterile. I ob- 
served that procreation is not the only meaning of life, 
for then life in itself would become meaningless, and 
something which in itself is meaningless cannot be 
rendered meaningful merely by its perpetuation. How- 
ever, the rabbi evaluated his plight as an orthodox Jew 
in terms of despair that there was no son of his own 
who would ever say Kaddish 6 for him after his death. 

But 1 would not give up. I made a last attempt to 
help him by inquiring whether he did not hope to see 
his children again in Heaven. However, my question 
was followed by an outburst of tears, and now the true 
reason for his despair came to the fore: he explained 
that his children, since they died as innocent martyrs, 7 
were thus found worthy of the highest place in 
Heaven, but as for himself he could not expect, as an 
old, sinful man, to be assigned the same place. I did 
not give up but retorted, "Is it not conceivable, Rabbi, 
that precisely this was the meaning of your surviving 
your children: that you may be purified through these 
years of suffering, so that finally you, too, though not 
innocent like your children, may become worthy of 
joining them in Heaven? Is it not written in the Psalms 


6 A prayer for the dead. 

7 L'kiddush basbem, i.e., for the sanctification of God's name. 


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LOGOTHERAPY IN A NUTSHELL 


that God preserves all your tears? 8 So perhaps none of 
your sufferings were in vain." For the first time in 
many years he found relief from his suffering through 
the new point of view which 1 was able to open up to 
him. 


LIFE'S TRANSITORINESS 

Those things which seem to take meaning away 
from human life include not only suffering but dying as 
well. I never tire of saying that the only really transi- 
tory aspects of life are the potentialities; but as soon as 
they are actualized, they are rendered realities at that 
very moment; they are saved and delivered into the 
past, wherein they are rescued and preserved from 
transitoriness. For, in the past, nothing is irretrievably 
lost but everything irrevocably stored. 

Thus, the transitoriness of our existence in no way 
makes it meaningless. But it does constitute our re- 
sponsibleness; for everything hinges upon our realiz- 
ing the essentially transitory possibilities. Man con- 
stantly makes his choice concerning the mass of 
present potentialities; which of these will be con- 
demned to nonbeing and which will be actualized? 
Which choice will be made an actuality once and 
forever, an immortal "footprint in the sands of time"? 
At any moment, man must decide, for better or for 
worse, what will be the monument of his existence. 

Usually, to be sure, man considers only the stubble 
field of transitoriness and overlooks the lull granaries 

8 "Thou hast kept count of my tossings; put thou my tears in thy 
bottle! Are they not in thy book?" (Ps. 56, 8.) 


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MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


of the past, wherein he had salvaged once and for all 
his deeds, his joys and also his sufferings. Nothing can 
be undone, and nothing can be done away with. 1 
should say having been is the surest kind of being. 

Logotherapy, keeping in mind the essential transito- 
riness of human existence, is not pessimistic but rather 
activistic. To express this point figuratively we might 
say: The pessimist resembles a man who observes 
with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from 
which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each 
passing day. On the other hand, the person who at- 
tacks the problems of life actively is like a man who 
removes each successive leaf from his calendar and 
files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, 
after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the 
back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the 
richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has 
already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if 
he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to 
envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic 
over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy 
a young person? For the possibilities that a young 
person has, the future which is in store for him? "No, 
thank you," he will think. "Instead of possibilities, I 
have realities in my past, not only the reality of work 
done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely 
suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which 
1 am most proud, though these are things which cannot 
inspire envy." 


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LOGOTHERAPY IN A NUTSHELL 


LOGOTHERAPY AS A TECHNIQUE 

A realistic fear, like the fear of death, cannot be 
tranquilized away by its psychodynamic interpreta- 
tion; on the other hand, a neurotic fear, such as 
agoraphobia, cannot be cured by philosophical under- 
standing. However, logotherapy has developed a spe- 
cial technique to handle such cases, too. To under- 
stand what is going on whenever this technique is 
used, we take as a starting point a condition which is 
frequently observed in neurotic individuals, namely, 
anticipatory anxiety. It is characteristic of this fear 
that it produces precisely that of which the patient is 
afraid. An individual, for example, who is afraid of 
blushing when he enters a large room and faces many 
people will actually be more prone to blush under 
these circumstances. In this context, one might amend 
the saying "The wish is father to the thought" to "The 
fear is mother of the event." 

Ironically enough, in the same way that fear brings 
to pass what one is afraid of, likewise a forced inten- 
tion makes impossible what one forcibly wishes. This 
excessive intention, or "hyper-intention," as I call it, 
can be observed particularly in cases of sexual neuro- 
sis. The more a man tries to demonstrate his sexual 
potency or a woman her ability to experience orgasm, 
the less they are able to succeed. Pleasure is, and must 
remain, a side-effect or by-product, and is destroyed 
and spoiled to the degree to which it is made a goal in 
itself. 

In addition to excessive intention as described 
above, excessive attention, or "hyper-reflection," as 
it is called in logotherapy, may also be pathogenic (that 


145 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


is, lead to sickness). The following clinical report will 
indicate what I mean: A young woman came to me 
complaining of being frigid. The case history showed 
that in her childhood she had been sexually abused by 
her father. However, it had not been this traumatic 
experience in itself which had eventuated in her sexual 
neurosis, as could easily be evidenced. For it turned 
out that, through reading popular psychoanalytic liter- 
ature, the patient had lived constantly with the fearful 
expectation of the toll which her traumatic experience 
would someday take. This anticipatory anxiety re- 
sulted both in excessive intention to confirm her femi- 
ninity and excessive attention centered upon herself 
rather than upon her partner. This was enough to 
incapacitate the patient for the peak experience of 
sexual pleasure, since the orgasm was made an object 
of intention, and an object of attention as well, instead 
of remaining an unintended effect of un reflected dedi- 
cation and surrender to the partner. After undergoing 
short-term logotherapy, the patient's excessive atten- 
tion and intention of her ability to experience orgasm 
had been "dereflected," to introduce another lo- 
gotherapeutic term. When her attention was refocused 
toward the proper object, i.e., the partner, orgasm 
established itself spontaneously . 9 

Logotherapy bases its technique called "paradoxi- 

9 In order to treat cases of sexual impotence, a specific logothera- 
peutic technique has been developed, based on the theory of hyper- 
intention and hyper-reflection as sketched above (Viktor E. Frankl, 
"The Pleasure Principle and Sexual Neurosis," The International 
Journal of Sexology, Vol. 5, No. 3 [1952], pp. 128-30). Of course, 
this cannot be dealt with in this brief presentation of the principles of 
logotherapy. 


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LOGOTHERAPY IN A NUTSHELL 


cal intention" on the twofold fact that fear brings 
about that which one is afraid of, and that hyper- 
intention makes impossible what one wishes. In Ger- 
man I described paradoxical intention as early as 
1939. 10 In this approach the phobic patient is invited to 
intend, even if only for a moment, precisely that which 
he fears. 

Let me recall a case. A young physician consulted 
me because of his fear of perspiring. Whenever he 
expected an outbreak of perspiration, this anticipatory 
anxiety was enough to precipitate excessive sweating. 
In order to cut this circle formation I advised the 
patient, in the event that sweating should recur, to 
resolve deliberately to show people how much he 
could sweat. A week later he returned to report that 
whenever he met anyone who triggered his anticipa- 
tory anxiety, he said to himself, "I only sweated out a 
quart before, but now I'm going to pour at least ten 
quarts!" The result was that, after suffering from his 
phobia for four years, he was able, after a single 
session, to free himself permanently of it within one 
week. 

The reader will note that this procedure consists of a 
reversal of the patient's attitude, inasmuch as his fear 
is replaced by a paradoxical wish. By this treatment, 
the wind is taken out of the sails of the anxiety. 

Such a procedure, however, must make use of the 
specifically human capacity for self-detachment inher- 
ent in a sense of humor. This basic capacity to detach 

10 "Viktor E. Frankl, "Zur medikamentosen Unterstiitzung der Psy- 
chotherapie bei Neurosen," Schweizer Archiv fur Neurologie und 
Psychiatrie, Vol. 43, pp. 26-31. 


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MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


one from oneself is actualized whenever the logothera- 
peutic technique called paradoxical intention is ap- 
plied. At the same time, the patient is enabled to put 
himself at a distance from his own neurosis. A state- 
ment consistent with this is found in Gordon W. All- 
port's book. The Individual and His Religion: "The 
neurotic who learns to laugh at himself may be on the 
way to self-management, perhaps to cure." 1 Paradoxi- 
cal intention is the empirical validation and clinical 
application of Allport's statement. 

A few more case reports may serve to clarify this 
method further. The following patient was a book- 
keeper who had been treated by many doctors and in 
several clinics without any therapeutic success. When 
he was admitted to my hospital department, he was in 
extreme despair, confessing that he was close to sui- 
cide. For some years, he had suffered from a writer's 
cramp which had recently become so severe that he 
was in danger of losing his job. Therefore, only imme- 
diate short-term therapy could alleviate the situation. 
In starting treatment, Dr. Eva Kozdera recommended 
to the patient that he do just the opposite of what he 
usually had done; namely, instead of trying to write as 
neatly and legibly as possible, to write with the worst 
possible scrawl. He was advised to say to himself, 
"Now 1 will show people what a good scribbler 1 am!" 
And at the moment in which he deliberately tried to 
scribble, he was unable to do so. "I tried to scrawl but 
simply could not do it," he said the next day. Within 
forty-eight hours the patient was in this way freed 
from his writer's cramp, and remained free for the 


u New York, The Macmillan Co., 1956, p. 92. 


148 



LOGOTHERAPY IN A NUTSHELL 


observation period after he had been treated. He is a 
happy man again and fully able to work. 

A similar case, dealing, however, with speaking 
rather than writing, was related to me by a colleague in 
the Laryngological Department of the Vienna Poli- 
klinik Hospital. It was the most severe case of stut- 
tering he had come across in his many years of prac- 
tice. Never in his life, as far as the stutterer could 
remember, had he been free from his speech trouble, 
even for a moment, except once. This happened when 
he was twelve years old and had hooked a ride on a 
streetcar. When caught by the conductor, he thought 
that the only way to escape would be to elicit his 
sympathy, and so he tried to demonstrate that he was 
just a poor stuttering boy. At that moment, when he 
tried to stutter, he was unable to do it. Without mean- 
ing to, he had practiced paradoxical intention, though 
not for therapeutic purposes. 

However, this presentation should not leave the 
impression that paradoxical intention is effective only 
in monosymptomatic cases. By means of this lo- 
gotherapeutic technique, my staff at the Vienna Poli- 
klinik Hospital has succeeded in bringing relief even 
in obsessive-compulsive neuroses of a most severe 
degree and duration. 1 refer, for instance, to a woman 
sixty-five years of age who had suffered for sixty years 
from a washing compulsion. Dr. Eva Kozdera started 
logotherapeutic treatment by means of paradoxical 
intention, and two months later the patient was able to 
lead a normal life. Before admission to the Neurologi- 
cal Department of the Vienna Poliklinik Hospital, she 
had confessed, "Life was hell for me." Handicapped 
by her compulsion and bacteriophobic obsession, she 


149 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


finally remained in bed all day unable to do any 
housework. It would not be accurate to say that she is 
now completely free of symptoms, for an obsession 
may come to her mind. However, she is able to "joke 
about it," as she says; in short, to apply paradoxical 
intention. 

Paradoxical intention can also be applied in cases of 
sleep disturbance. The fear of sleeplessness 12 results in 
a hyper-intention to fall asleep, which, in turn, inca- 
pacitates the patient to do so. To overcome this partic- 
ular fear, 1 usually advise the patient not to try to sleep 
but rather to try to do just the opposite, that is, to stay 
awake as long as possible. In other words, the hyper- 
intention to fall asleep, arising from the anticipatory 
anxiety of not being able to do so, must be replaced by 
the paradoxical intention not to fall asleep, which soon 
will be followed by sleep. 

Paradoxical intention is no panacea. Yet it lends 
itself as a useful tool in treating obsessive-compulsive 
and phobic conditions, especially in cases with under- 
lying anticipatory anxiety. Moreover, it is a short-term 
therapeutic device. However, one should not conclude 
that such a short-term therapy necessarily results in 
only temporary therapeutic effects. One of "the more 
common illusions of Freudian orthodoxy," to quote 
the late Emil A. Gutheil, "is that the durability of 
results corresponds to the length of therapy." 13 In my 
files there is, for instance, the case report of a patient 


12 The fear of sleeplessness is, in the majority of cases, due to the 
patient's ignorance of the fact that the organism provides itself by 
itself with the minimum amount of sleep really needed. 

"American Journal of Psychotherapy, 10(1956), p. 134. 


150 



LOGOTHERAPY IN A NUTSHELL 


to whom paradoxical intention was administered more 
than twenty years ago; the therapeutic effect proved to 
be, nevertheless, a permanent one. 

One of the most remarkable facts is that paradoxical 
intention is effective regardless of the etiological basis 
of the case concerned. This confirms a statement once 
made by Edith Weisskopf-Joelson: "Although tradi- 
tional psychotherapy has insisted that therapeutic 
practices have to be based on findings on etiology, it is 
possible that certain factors might cause neuroses 
during early childhood and that entirely different fac- 
tors might relieve neuroses during adulthood ." 14 

As for the actual causation of neuroses, apart from 
constitutional elements, whether somatic or psychic in 
nature, such feedback mechanisms as anticipatory 
anxiety seem to be a major pathogenic factor. A given 
symptom is responded to by a phobia, the phobia 
triggers the symptom, and the symptom, in turn, rein- 
forces the phobia. A similar chain of events, however, 
can be observed in obsessive-compulsive cases in 
which the patient fights the ideas which haunt him . 15 
Thereby, however, he increases their power to disturb 
him, since pressure precipitates counterpressure. 
Again the symptom is reinforced! On the other hand, 
as soon as the patient stops fighting his obsessions and 
instead tries to ridicule them by dealing with them in 

14 "Some Comments on a Viennese School of Psychiatry," The 
Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 51 (1955), pp. 701-3. 

"This is often motivated by the patient's fear that his obsessions 
indicate an imminent or even actual psychosis; the patient is not 
aware of the empirical fact that an obsessive-compulsive neurosis is 
immunizing him against a formal psychosis rather than endangering 
him in this direction. 


151 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


an ironical way - by applying paradoxical intention - 
the vicious circle is cut, the symptom diminishes and 
finally atrophies. In the fortunate case where there is 
no existential vacuum which invites and elicits the 
symptom, the patient will not only succeed in ridicul- 
ing his neurotic fear but finally will succeed in com- 
pletely ignoring it. 

As we see, anticipatory anxiety has to be counter- 
acted by paradoxical intention; hyper-intention as well 
as hyper-reflection have to be counteracted by de- 
reflection; dereflection, however, ultimately is not 
possible except by the patient's orientation toward his 
specific vocation and mission in life . 16 

It is not the neurotic’s self-concern, whether pity or 
contempt, which breaks the circle formation; the cue 
to cure is self-transcendence! 

THE COLLECTIVE NEUROSIS 

Every age has its own collective neurosis, and every 
age needs its own psychotherapy to cope with it. The 
existential vacuum which is the mass neurosis of the 
present time can be described as a private and per- 
sonal form of nihilism; for nihilism can be defined as 
the contention that being has no meaning. As for 
psychotherapy, however, it will never be able to cope 
with this state of affairs on a mass scale if it does not 
keep itself free from the impact and influence of the 


16 This conviction is supported by Allport who once said, "As the 
focus of striving shifts from the conflict to selfless goals, the life as a 
whole becomes sounder even though the neurosis may never com- 
pletely disappear" (op. cit., p. 95). 


152 



LOGOTHERAPY IN A NUTSHELL 


contemporary trends of a nihilistic philosophy; other- 
wise it represents a symptom of the mass neurosis 
rather than its possible cure. Psychotherapy would not 
only reflect a nihilistic philosophy but also, even 
though unwillingly and unwittingly, transmit to the 
patient what is actually a caricature rather than a true 
picture of man. 

First of all, there is a danger inherent in the teaching 
of man's "nothingbutness," the theory that man is 
nothing but the result of biological, psychological and 
sociological conditions, or the product of heredity and 
environment. Such a view of man makes a neurotic 
believe what he is prone to believe anyway, namely, 
that he is the pawn and victim of outer influences or 
inner circumstances. This neurotic fatalism is fostered 
and strengthened by a psychotherapy which denies 
that man is free. 

To be sure, a human being is a finite thing, and his 
freedom is restricted. It is not freedom from condi- 
tions, but it is freedom to take a stand toward the 
conditions. As 1 once put it: "As a professor in two 
fields, neurology and psychiatry, 1 am fully aware of 
the extent to which man is subject to biological, psy- 
chological and sociological conditions. But in addition 
to being a professor in two fields I am a survivor of 
four camps - concentration camps, that is - and as 
such I also bear witness to the unexpected extent to 
which man is capable of defying and braving even the 
worst conditions conceivable." 


17 "Value Dimensions in Teaching," a color television film pro- 
duced by Hollywood Animators, Inc., for the California Junior 
College Association. 


153 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


CRITIQUE OF PAN-DETERMINISM 

Psychoanalysis has often been blamed for its so- 
called pan-sexualism. 1, for one, doubt whether this 
reproach has ever been legitimate. However, there is 
something which seems to me to be an even more 
erroneous and dangerous assumption, namely, that 
which 1 call "pan-determinism." By that 1 mean the 
view of man which disregards his capacity to take a 
stand toward any conditions whatsoever. Man is not 
fully conditioned and determined but rather deter- 
mines himself whether he gives in to conditions or 
stands up to them. In other words, man is ultimately 
self-determining. Man does not simply exist but al- 
ways decides what his existence will be, what he will 
become in the next moment. 

By the same token, every human being has the 
freedom to change at any instant. Therefore, we can 
predict his future only within the large framework of a 
statistical survey referring to a whole group; the indi- 
vidual personality, however, remains essentially un- 
predictable. The basis for any predictions would be 
represented by biological, psychological or sociologi- 
cal conditions. Yet one of the main features of human 
existence is the capacity to rise above such conditions, 
to grow beyond them. Man is capable of changing the 
world for the better if possible, and of changing him- 
self for the better if necessary. 

Let me cite the case of Dr. J. He was the only man I 
ever encountered in my whole life whom I would dare 
to call a Mephistophelean being, a satanic figure. At 
that time he was generally called "the mass murderer 
of Steinhof" (the large mental hospital in Vienna). 


154 



LOGOTHERAPY IN A NUTSHELL 


When the Nazis started their euthanasia program, he 
held all the strings in his hands and was so fanatic in 
the job assigned to him that he tried not to let one 
single psychotic individual escape the gas chamber. 
After the war, when I came back to Vienna, 1 asked 
what had happened to Dr. J. "He had been imprisoned 
by the Russians in one of the isolation cells of 
Steinhof," they told me. "The next day, however, the 
door of his cell stood open and Dr. J. was never seen 
again." Later I was convinced that, like others, he had 
with the help of his comrades made his way to South 
America. More recently, however, I was consulted by 
a former Austrian diplomat who had been imprisoned 
behind the Iron Curtain for many years, first in Siberia 
and then in the famous Lubianka prison in Moscow. 
While I was examining him neurologically, he sud- 
denly asked me whether I happened to know Dr. J. 
After my affirmative reply he continued: "I made his 
acquaintance in Lubianka. There he died, at about the 
age of forty, from cancer of the urinary bladder. 
Before he died, however, he showed himself to be the 
best comrade you can imagine! He gave consolation to 
everybody. He lived up to the highest conceivable 
moral standard. He was the best friend I ever met 
during my long years in prison!" 

This is the story of Dr. J., "the mass murderer of 
Steinhof." How can we dare to predict the behavior of 
man? We may predict the movements of a machine, of 
an automaton; more than this, we may even try to 
predict the mechanisms or "dynamisms" of the human 
psyche as well. But man is more than psyche. 

Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is 
only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is 


155 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon 
whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, free- 
dom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrari- 
ness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That 
is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the 
East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsi- 
bility on the West Coast. 

THE PSYCHIATRIC CREDO 

There is nothing conceivable which would so condi- 
tion a man as to leave him without the slightest free- 
dom. Therefore, a residue of freedom, however lim- 
ited it may be, is left to man in neurotic and even 
psychotic cases. Indeed, the innermost core of the 
patient's personality is not even touched by a psycho- 
sis. 

An incurably psychotic individual may lose his use- 
fulness but yet retain the dignity of a human being. 
This is my psychiatric credo. Without it I should not 
think it worthwhile to be a psychiatrist. For whose 
sake? Just for the sake of a damaged brain machine 
which cannot be repaired? If the patient were not 
definitely more, euthanasia would be justified. 

PSYCHIATRY REHUMANIZED 

For too long a time - for half a century, in fact - 
psychiatry tried to interpret the human mind merely as 
a mechanism, and consequently the therapy of mental 
disease merely in terms of a technique. I believe this 
dream has been dreamt out. What now begins to loom 
on the horizon are not the sketches of a psychologized 


156 



LOGOTHERAPY IN A NUTSHELL 


medicine but rather those of a humanized psychiatry. 

A doctor, however, who would still interpret his 
own role mainly as that of a technician would confess 
that he sees in his patient nothing more than a ma- 
chine, instead of seeing the human being behind the 
disease! 

A human being is not one thing among others; things 
determine each other, but man is ultimately self-deter- 
mining. What he becomes - within the limits of endow- 
ment and environment - he has made out of himself. In 
the concentration camps, for example, in this living 
laboratory and on this testing ground, we watched and 
witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine 
while others behaved like saints. Man has both poten- 
tialities within himself; which one is actualized de- 
pends on decisions but not on conditions. 

Our generation is realistic, for we have come to 
know man as he really is. After all, man is that being 
who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; how- 
ever, he is also that being who entered those gas 
chambers upright, with the Lord's Prayer or the 
Shema Yisrael on his lips. 


157 




POSTSCRIPT 1984 

The Case fora Tragic 
Optimism* 




Dedicated to the memory of Edith Weisskopf- 
Joelson, whose pioneering efforts in logotherapy in 
the United States began as early as 1955 and whose 
contributions to the field have been invaluable. 

LET US FIRST ASK OURSELVES WHAT SHOULD BE UN- 
derstood by "a tragic optimism." In brief it means that 
one is, and remains, optimistic in spite of the "tragic 
triad," as it is called in logotherapy, a triad which 
consists of those aspects of human existence which 
may be circumscribed by: (1) pain; (2) guilt; and (3) 
death. This chapter, in fact, raises the question. How 
is it possible to say yes to life in spite of all that? How, 
to pose the question differently, can life retain its 
potential meaning in spite of its tragic aspects? After 
all, "saying yes to life in spite of everything," to use 
the phrase in which the title of a German book of mine 

*This chapter is based on a lecture I presented at the Third World 
Congress of Logotherapy, Regensburg University, West Germany, 
June 1983. 


161 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


is couched, presupposes that life is potentially mean- 
ingful under any conditions, even those which are 
most miserable. And this in turn presupposes the 
human capacity to creatively turn life's negative as- 
pects into something positive or constructive. In other 
words, what matters is to make the best of any given 
situation. "The best," however, is that which in Latin 
is called optimum - hence the reason I speak of a 
tragic optimism, that is, an optimism in the face of 
tragedy and in view of the human potential which at its 
best always allows for: (1) turning suffering into a 
human achievement and accomplishment; (2) deriving 
from guilt the opportunity to change oneself for the 
better; and (3) deriving from life's transitoriness an 
incentive to take responsible action. 

It must be kept in mind, however, that optimism is 
not anything to be commanded or ordered. One cannot 
even force oneself to be optimistic indiscriminately, 
against all odds, against all hope. And what is true for 
hope is also true for the other two components of the 
triad inasmuch as faith and love cannot be commanded 
or ordered either. 

To the European, it is a characteristic of the Ameri- 
can culture that, again and again, one is commanded 
and ordered to "be happy." But happiness cannot be 
pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to "be 
happy." Once the reason is found, however, one be- 
comes happy automatically. As we see, a human being 
is not one in pursuit of happiness but rather in search 
of a reason to become happy, last but not least, 
through actualizing the potential meaning inherent and 
dormant in a given situation. 

This need for a reason is similar' in another specifi- 


162 



THE CASE FOR A TRAGIC OPTIMISM 


cally human phenomenon - laughter. If you want any- 
one to laugh you have to provide him with a reason, 
e.g., you have to tell him a joke. In no way is it 
possible to evoke real laughter by urging him, or 
having him urge himself, to laugh. Doing so would be 
the same as urging people posed in front of a camera to 
say "cheese," only to find that in the finished photo- 
graphs their faces are frozen in artificial smiles. 

In logotherapy, such a behavior pattern is called 
"hyper-intention." It plays an important role in the 
causation of sexual neurosis, be it frigidity or impo- 
tence. The more a patient, instead of forgetting himself 
through giving himself, directly strives for orgasm, i.e., 
sexual pleasure, the more this pursuit of sexual plea- 
sure becomes self-defeating. Indeed, what is called 
"the pleasure principle" is, rather, a fun-spoiler. 

Once an individual's search for a meaning is suc- 
cessful, it not only renders him happy but also gives 
him the capability to cope with suffering. And what 
happens if one's groping for a meaning has been in 
vain? This may well result in a fatal condition. Let us 
recall, for instance, what sometimes happened in ex- 
treme situations such as prisoner-of-war camps or 
concentration camps. In the first, as I was told by 
American soldiers, a behavior pattern crystallized to 
which they referred as "give-up-itis." In the concen- 
tration camps, this behavior was paralleled by those 
who one morning, at five, refused to get up and go to 
work and instead stayed in the hut, on the straw wet 
with urine and faeces. Nothing - neither warnings nor 
threats - could induce them to change their minds. 
And then something typical occurred: they took out a 
cigarette from deep down in a pocket where they had 


163 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


hidden it and started smoking. At that moment we 
knew that for the next forty-eight hours or so we 
would watch them dying. Meaning orientation had 
subsided, and consequently the seeking of immediate 
pleasure had taken over. 

Is this not reminiscent of another parallel, a parallel 
that confronts us day by day? 1 think of those young- 
sters who, on a worldwide scale, refer to themselves 
as the "no future" generation. To be sure, it is not just 
a cigarette to which they resort; it is drugs. 

In fact, the drug scene is one aspect of a more 
general mass phenomenon, namely the feeling of 
meaninglessness resulting from a frustration of our 
existential needs which in turn has become a universal 
phenomenon in our industrial societies. Today it is not 
only logotherapists who claim that the feeling of mean- 
inglessness plays an ever increasing role in the etiol- 
ogy of neurosis. As Irvin D. Yalom of Stanford Uni- 
versity states in Existential Psychotherapy: "Of forty 
consecutive patients applying for therapy at a psychi- 
atric outpatient clinic . . . twelve (30 percent) had some 
major problem involving meaning (as adjudged from 
self-ratings, therapists, or independent judges)." 1 
Thousands of miles east of Palo Alto, the situation 
differs only by 1 percent; the most recent pertinent 
statistics indicate that in Vienna, 29 percent of the 
population complain that meaning is missing from their 
lives. 

As to the causation of the feeling of meaningless- 
ness, one may say, albeit in an oversimplifying vein, 

'Basic Books, New York, 1980, p. 448. 


161 



THE CASE FOR A TRAGIC OPTIMISM 


that people have enough to live by but nothing to live 
for; they have the means but no meaning. To be sure, 
some do not even have the means. In particular, I 
think of the mass of people who are today unem- 
ployed. Fifty years ago, I published a study 2 devoted 
to a specific type of depression I had diagnosed in 
cases of young patients suffering from what I called 
"unemployment neurosis." And I could show that this 
neurosis really originated in a twofold erroneous iden- 
tification: being jobless was equated with being use- 
less, and being useless was equated with having a 
meaningless life. Consequently, whenever I succeeded 
in persuading the patients to volunteer in youth organi- 
zations, adult education, public libraries and the like - 
in other words, as soon as they could fill their abun- 
dant free time with some sort of unpaid but meaningful 
activity - their depression disappeared although their 
economic situation had not changed and their hunger 
was the same. The truth is that man does not live by 
welfare alone. 

Along with unemployment neurosis, which is trig- 
gered by an individual's socioeconomic situation, 
there are other types of depression which are traceable 
back to psychodynamic or biochemical conditions, 
whichever the case may be. Accordingly, psychother- 
apy and pharmacotherapy are indicated respectively. 
Insofar as the feeling of meaninglessness is concerned, 
however, we should not overlook and forget that, per se, 
it is not a matter of pathology; rather than being the sign 


2 "Wirtschaftskrise und Seelenleben vom Standpunkt des Jugend- 
beraters," Sozialarztliche Rundschau, Vol. 4 (1933), pp. 43-46. 


165 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


and symptom of a neurosis, it is, I would say, the proof 
of one's humanness. But although it is not caused by 
anything pathological, it may well cause a pathological 
reaction; in other words, it is potentially pathogenic. Just 
consider the mass neurotic syndrome so pervasive in the 
young generation: there is ample empirical evidence that 
the three facets of this syndrome - depression, aggres- 
sion, addiction - are due to what is called in logotherapy 
"the existential vacuum," a feeling of emptiness and 
meaninglessness. 

It goes without saying that not each and every case 
of depression is to be traced back to a feeling of 
meaninglessness, nor does suicide - in which depres- 
sion sometimes eventuates - always result from an 
existential vacuum. But even if each and every case of 
suicide had not been undertaken out of a feeling of 
meaninglessness, it may well be that an individual's 
impulse to take his life would have been overcome had 
he been aware of some meaning and purpose worth 
living for. 

If, thus, a strong meaning orientation plays a deci- 
sive role in the prevention of suicide, what about 
intervention in cases in which there is a suicide risk? 
As a young doctor I spent four years in Austria's 
largest state hospital where I was in charge of the 
pavilion in which severely depressed patients were 
accommodated - most of them having been admitted 
after a suicide attempt. I once calculated that 1 must 
have explored twelve thousand patients during those 
four years. What accumulated was quite a store of 
experience from which I still draw whenever 1 am 
confronted with someone who is prone to suicide. 1 


166 



THE CASE FOR A TRAGIC OPTIMISM 


explain to such a person that patients have repeatedly 
told me how happy they were that the suicide attempt 
had not been successful; weeks, months, years later, 
they told me, it turned out that there was a solution to 
their problem, an answer to their question, a meaning 
to their life. "Even if things only take such a good turn 
in one of a thousand cases," my explanation con- 
tinues, "who can guarantee that in your case it will not 
happen one day, sooner or later? But in the first place, 
you have to live to see the day on which it may 
happen, so you have to survive in order to see that day 
dawn, and from now on the responsibility for survival 
does not leave you." 

Regarding the second facet of the mass neurotic 
syndrome - aggression - let me cite an experiment 
once conducted by Carolyn Wood Sherif. She had 
succeeded in artificially building up mutual aggressions 
between groups of boy scouts, and observed that the 
aggressions only subsided when the youngsters dedi- 
cated themselves to a collective puipose - that is, the 
joint task of dragging out of the mud a carriage in 
which food had to be brought to their camp. Immedi- 
ately, they were not only challenged but also united by 
a meaning they had to fttlfill. 3 

As for the third issue, addiction, I am reminded of 
the findings presented by Annemarie von Forstmeyer 
who noted that, as evidenced by tests and statistics, 90 


3 For further information on this experiment, see Viktor E. Frankl, 
The Unconscious God , New York, Simon and Schuster, 1978, p. 
140; and Viktor E. Frankl, The Unheard Cry for Meaning, New 
York, Simon and Schuster, 1978, p. 36. 


167 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


percent of the alcoholics she studied had suffered from 
an abysmal feeling of meaninglessness. Of the drug 
addicts studied by Stanley Krippner, 100 percent be- 
lieved that "things seemed meaningless." 4 

Now let us turn to the question of meaning itself. To 
begin with, I would like to clarify that, in the first 
place, the logotherapist is concerned with the potential 
meaning inherent and dormant in all the single situa- 
tions one has to face throughout Iris or her life. There- 
fore, I will not be elaborating here on the meaning of 
one's life as a whole, although I do not deny that such 
a long-range meaning does exist. To invoke an anal- 
ogy, consider a movie: it consists of thousands upon 
thousands of individual pictures, and each of them 
makes sense and carries a meaning, yet the meaning of 
the whole film cannot be seen before its last sequence 
is shown. However, we cannot understand the whole 
film without having first understood each of its compo- 
nents, each of the individual pictures. Isn't it the same 
with life? Doesn't the final meaning of life, too, reveal 
itself, if at all, only at its end, on the verge of death? 
And doesn't this final meaning, too, depend on 
whether or not the potential meaning of each single 
situation has been actualized to the best of the respec- 
tive individual's knowledge and belief? 

The fact remains that meaning, and its perception, 
as seen from the logotherapeutic angle, is completely 
down to earth rather than afloat in the air or resident in 
an ivory tower. Sweepingly, I would locate the cogni- 
tion of meaning - of the personal meaning of a con- 

4 For further information, see The Unconscious God, pp. 97-100; 
and The Unheard Cry for Meaning, pp. 26-28. 


168 



THE CASE FOR A TRAGIC OPTIMISM 


crete situation - midway between an "aha" experi- 
ence along the lines of Karl Biihler's concept and a 
Gestalt perception, say, along the lines of Max 
Wertheimer's theory. The perception of meaning dif- 
fers from the classical concept of Gestalt perception 
insofar as the latter implies the sudden awareness of a 
"figure" on a "ground," whereas the perception of 
meaning, as 1 see it, more specifically boils down to 
becoming aware of a possibility against the back- 
ground of reality or, to express it in plain words, to 
becoming aware of what can be done about a given 
situation. 

And how does a human being go about finding 
meaning? As Charlotte Biihler has stated: "All we can 
do is study the lives of people who seem to have found 
their answers to the questions of what ultimately hu- 
man life is about as against those who have not." 3 In 
addition to such a biographical approach, however, we 
may as well embark on a biological approach. Lo- 
gotherapy conceives of conscience as a prompter 
which, if need be, indicates the direction in which we 
have to move in a given life situation. In order to carry 
out such a task, conscience must apply a measuring 
stick to the situation one is confronted with, and this 
situation has to be evaluated in the light of a set of 
criteria, in the light of a hierarchy of values. These 
values, however, cannot be espoused and adopted by 
us on a conscious level - they are something that we 
are. They have crystallized in the course of the evolu- 
tion of our species; they are founded on our biological 

5 "Basic Theoretical Concepts of Humanistic Psychology," Ameri- 
can Psychologist, XXVI (April 1971), p. 378. 


169 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


past and are rooted in our biological depth. Konrad 
Lorenz might have had something similar in mind 
when he developed the concept of a biological a priori, 
and when both of us recently discussed my own view 
on the biological foundation of the valuing process, he 
enthusiastically expressed his accord. In any case, if a 
pre-reflective axiological self-understanding exists, we 
may assume that it is ultimately anchored in our 
biological heritage. 

As logotherapy teaches, there are three main ave- 
nues on which one arrives at meaning in life. The first 
is by creating a work or by doing a deed. The second is 
by experiencing something or encountering someone; 
in other words, meaning can be found not only in work 
but also in love. Edith Weisskopf-Joelson observed in 
this context that the logotherapeutic "notion that ex- 
periencing can be as valuable as achieving is therapeu- 
tic because it compensates for our one-sided emphasis 
on the external world of achievement at the expense of 
the internal world of experience." 6 

Most important, however, is the third avenue to 
meaning in life: even the helpless victim of a hopeless 
situation, facing a fate he cannot change, may rise 
above himself, may grow beyond himself, and by so 
doing change himself. He may turn a personal tragedy 
into a triumph. Again it was Edith Weisskopf-Joelson 
who, as mentioned on p. 136, once expressed the hope 
that logotherapy "may help counteract certain un- 
healthy trends in the present-day culture of the United 
States, where the incurable sufferer is given very little 

6 "The Place of Logotherapy in the World Today," The Interna- 
tional Forum for Logotherapy, Vol. 1, No. 3 (1980), pp. 3-7. 


170 



THE CASE FOR A TRAGIC OPTIMISM 


opportunity to be proud of his suffering and to con- 
sider it ennobling rather than degrading" so that "he is 
not only unhappy, but also ashamed of being un- 
happy." 

For a quarter of a century I ran the neurological 
department of a general hospital and bore witness to 
my patients' capacity to turn their predicaments into 
human achievements. In addition to such practical 
experience, empirical evidence is also available which 
supports the possibility that one may find meaning in 
suffering. Researchers at the Yale University School 
of Medicine "have been impressed by the number of 
prisoners of war of the Vietnam war who explicitly 
claimed that although their captivity was extraordinar- 
ily stressful - filled with torture, disease, malnutrition, 
and solitary confinement - they nevertheless .. . bene- 
fited from the captivity experience, seeing it as a 
growth experience ." 7 

But the most powerful arguments in favor of "a 
tragic optimism" are those which in Latin are called 
argumenta ad hominem. Jerry Long, to cite an exam- 
ple, is a living testimony to "the defiant power of the 
human spirit," as it is called in logotherapy . 8 To quote 
the Texarkana Gazette , "Jerry Long has been para- 
lyzed from his neck down since a diving accident 
which rendered him a quadriplegic three years ago. He 


7 W. H. Sledge, J. A. Boydstun and A. J. Rabe. "Self-Concept 
Changes Related to War Captivity," Arch. Gen. Psychiatry, 37 
(1980), pp. 430-443. 

s "The Defiant Power of the Human Spirit" was in fact the title of a 
paper presented by Long at the Third World Congress of Lo- 
gotherapy in lune 1983. 


171 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


was 17 when the accident occurred. Today Long can 
use his mouth stick to type. He ’attends’ two courses 
at Community College via a special telephone. The 
intercom allows Long to both hear and participate in 
class discussions. He also occupies his time by read- 
ing. watching television and writing." And in a letter I 
received from him, he writes: "I view my life as being 
abundant with meaning and purpose. The attitude that 
I adopted on that fateful day has become my personal 
credo for life: I broke my neck, it didn't break me. I 
am currently enrolled in my first psychology course in 
college. I believe that my handicap will only enhance 
my ability to help others. I know that without the 
suffering, the growth that I have achieved would have 
been impossible." 

Is this to say that suffering is indispensable to the 
discovery of meaning? In no way. I only insist that 
meaning is available in spite of - nay, even through - 
suffering, provided, as noted in Part Two of this book, 
that the suffering is unavoidable. If it is avoidable, the 
meaningful thing to do is to remove its cause, for 
unnecessary suffering is masochistic rather than he- 
roic. If, on the other hand, one cannot change a 
situation that causes his suffering, he can still choose 
his attitude. 9 Long had not been chosen to break his 

9 I won't forget an interview I once heard on Austrian TV, given by 
a Polish cardiologist who, during World War II, had helped organize 
the Warsaw ghetto upheaval. "What a heroic deed," exclaimed the 
reporter. "Listen," calmly replied the doctor, "to take a gun and 
shoot is no great thing; but if the SS leads you to a gas chamber or to 
a mass grave to execute you on the spot, and you can't do anything 
about it - except for going your way with dignity - you see, this is 
what I would call heroism." Attitudinal heroism, so to speak. 


172 



THE CASE FOR A TRAGIC OPTIMISM 


neck, but he did decide not to let himself be broken by 
what had happened to him. 

As we see, the priority stays with creatively chang- 
ing the situation that causes us to suffer. But the 
superiority goes to the "know-how to suffer," if need 
be. And there is empirical evidence that - literally - 
the "man in the street" is of the same opinion. Aus- 
trian public-opinion pollsters recently reported that 
those held in highest esteem by most of the people 
interviewed are neither the great artists nor the great 
scientists, neither the great statesmen nor the great 
sports figures, but those who master a hard lot with 
their heads held high. 

In turning to the second aspect of the tragic triad, 
namely guilt, I would like to depart from a theological 
concept that has always been fascinating to me. I refer 
to what is called mysterium iniquitatis, meaning, as I 
see it, that a crime in the final analysis remains inexpli- 
cable inasmuch as it cannot be fully traced back to 
biological, psychological and/or sociological factors. 
Totally explaining one's crime would be tantamount to 
explaining away his or her guilt and to seeing in him or 
her not a free and responsible human being but a 
machine to be repaired. Even criminals themselves 
abhor this treatment and prefer to be held responsible 
for their deeds. From a convict serving his sentence in 
an Illinois penitentiary I received a letter in which he 
deplored that "the criminal never has a chance to 
explain himself. He is offered a variety of excuses to 
choose from. Society is blamed and in many instances 
the blame is put on the victim." Furthermore, when I 
addressed the prisoners in San Quentin, I told them 


173 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


that "you are human beings like me, and as such you 
were free to commit a crime, to become guilty. Now, 
however, you are responsible for overcoming guilt by 
rising above it, by growing beyond yourselves, by 
changing for the better." They felt understood. 10 And 
from Frank E. W., an ex-prisoner, I received a note 
which stated that he had "started a logotherapy group 
for ex-felons. We are 27 strong and the newer ones are 
staying out of prison through the peer strength of those 
of us from the original group. Only one returned - and 
he is now free."" 

As for the concept of collective guilt, I personally 
think that it is totally unjustified to hold one person 
responsible for the behavior of another person or a 
collective of persons. Since the end of World War II, 
I have not become weary of publicly arguing against 
the collective guilt concept. 12 Sometimes, however, it 
takes a lot of didactic tricks to detach people from 
their superstitions. An American woman once con- 
fronted me with the reproach, "How can you still 
write some of your books in German, Adolf Hitler’s 
language?" In response, I asked her if she had knives 
in her kitchen, and when she answered that she did, I 
acted dismayed and shocked, exclaiming, "How can 
you still use knives after so many killers have used 
them to stab and murder their victims?" She stopped 
objecting to my writing books in German. 

10 See also Joseph B. Fabry, The Pursuit of Meaning, New York, 
Harper and Row, 1980. 

n Cf. Viktor E. Frankl, The Unheard Cry for Meaning, New York, 
Simon and Schuster, 1978, pp. 42-43. 

L See also Viktor E. Frankl. Psychotherapy and Existentialism, 
New York, Simon and Schuster, 1967. 


174 



THE CASE FOR A TRAGIC OPTIMISM 


The third aspect of the tragic triad concerns death. 
But it concerns life as well, for at any time each of the 
moments of which life consists is dying, and that 
moment will never recur. And yet is not this transitori- 
ness a reminder that challenges us to make the best 
possible use of each moment of our lives? It certainly 
is, and hence my imperative: Live as if you were living 
for the second time and had acted as wrongly the first 
time as you are about to act now. 

In fact, the opportunities to act properly, the poten- 
tialities to fu lf ill a meaning, are affected by the irre- 
versibility of our lives. But also the potentialities alone 
are so affected. For as soon as we have used an 
opportunity and have actualized a potential meaning, 
we have done so once and for all. We have rescued it 
into the past wherein it has been safely delivered and 
deposited. In the past, nothing is irretrievably lost, but 
rather, on the contrary, everything is irrevocably 
stored and treasured. To be sure, people tend to see 
only the stubble fields of transitoriness but overlook 
and forget the full granaries of the past into which they 
have brought the harvest of their lives: the deeds done, 
the loves loved, and last but not least, the sufferings 
they have gone through with courage and dignity. 

From this one may see that there is no reason to pity 
old people. Instead, young people should envy them. 
It is true that the old have no opportunities, no possibil- 
ities in the future. But they have more than that. 
Instead of possibilities in the future, they have realities 
in the past - the potentialities they have actualized, the 
meanings they have fulfilled, the values they have 
realized - and nothing and nobody can ever remove 
these assets from the past. 


175 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


In view of the possibility of finding meaning in 
suffering, life's meaning is an unconditional one, at 
least potentially. That unconditional meaning, how- 
ever, is paralleled by the unconditional value of each 
and every person. It is that which warrants the indeli- 
ble quality of the dignity of man. Just as life remains 
potentially meaningful under any conditions, even 
those which are most miserable, so too does the value 
of each and every person stay with him or her, and it 
does so because it is based on the values that he or she 
has realized in the past, and is not contingent on the 
usefulness that he or she may or may not retain in the 
present. 

More specifically, this usefulness is usually defined 
in terms of functioning for the benefit of society. But 
today's society is characterized by achievement orien- 
tation, and consequently it adores people who are 
successful and happy and, in particular, it adores the 
young. It virtually ignores the value of all those who 
are otherwise, and in so doing blurs the decisive 
difference between being valuable in the sense of 
dignity and being valuable in the sense of usefulness. If 
one is not cognizant of this difference and holds that an 
individual's value stems only from his present useful- 
ness, then, believe me, one owes it only to personal 
inconsistency not to plead for euthanasia along the 
lines of Hitler's program, that is to say, "mercy" 
killing of all those who have lost their social useful- 
ness, be it because of old age, incurable illness, mental 
deterioration, or whatever handicap they may suffer. 

Confounding the dignity of man with mere useful- 
ness arises from a conceptual confusion that in turn 
may be traced back to the contemporary nihilism 


176 



THE CASE FOR A TRAGIC OPTIMISM 


transmitted on many an academic campus and many 
an analytical couch. Even in the setting of training 
analyses such an indoctrination may take place. Nihil- 
ism does not contend that there is nothing, but it states 
that everything is meaningless. And George A. 
Sargent was right when he promulgated the concept of 
"learned meaninglessness." He himself remembered a 
therapist who said, "George, you must realize that the 
world is a joke. There is no justice, everything is 
random. Only when you realize this will you under- 
stand how silly it is to take yourself seriously. There is 
no grand purpose in the universe. It just is. There's no 
particular meaning in what decision you make today 
about how to act ." 13 

One must not generalize such a criticism. In princi- 
ple, training is indispensable, but if so, therapists 
should see their task in immunizing the trainee against 
nihilism rather than inoculating him with the cynicism 
that is a defense mechanism against their own nihilism. 

Logotherapists may even conform to some of the 
training and licensing requirements stipulated by the 
other schools of psychotherapy. In other words, one 
may howl with the wolves, if need be, but when doing 
so, one should be, I would urge, a sheep in wolfs 
clothing. There is no need to become untrue to the 
basic concept of man and the principles of the 
philosophy of life inherent in logotherapy. Such a 
loyalty is not hard to maintain in view of the fact that, 
as Elisabeth S. Lukas once pointed out, "throughout 


13 "Transference and Countertransference in Logotherapy," The 
International Forum for Logotherapy, Vol. 5, No. 2 (FallAVinter 
1982), pp. 115-18. 


177 



MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING 


the history of psychotherapy, there has never been a 
school as undogmatic as logotherapy." 14 And at the 
First World Congress of Logotherapy (San Diego, 
California, November 6-8, 1980) I argued not only for 
the rehumanization of psychotherapy but also for what 
I called "the degurufication of logotherapy." My inter- 
est does not lie in raising parrots that just rehash "their 
master's voice," but rather in passing the torch to 
"independent and inventive, innovative and creative 
spirits." 

Sigmund Freud once asserted, "Let one attempt to 
expose a number of the most diverse people uniformly 
to hunger. With the increase of the imperative urge of 
hunger all individual differences will blur, and in their 
stead will appear the uniform expression of the one 
unstilled urge." Thank heaven, Sigmund Freud was 
spared knowing the concentration camps from the 
inside. FTis subjects lay on a couch designed in the 
plush style of Victorian culture, not in the fdth of 
Auschwitz. There , the "individual differences" did not 
"blur" but, on the contrary, people became more 
different; people unmasked themselves, both the 
swine and the saints. And today you need no longer 
hesitate to use the word "saints": think of Father 
Maximilian Kolbe who was starved and finally mur- 
dered by an injection of carbolic acid at Auschwitz and 
who in 1983 was canonized. 

14 Logotherapy is not imposed on those who are interested in 
psychotherapy. It is not comparable to an Oriental bazaar but rather 
to a supermarket. In the former, the customer is talked into buying 
something. In the latter, he is shown, and offered, various things 
from which he may pick what he deems usable and valuable. 


178 



THE CASE FOR A TRAGIC OPTIMISM 


You may be prone to blame me for invoking exam- 
ples that are the exceptions to the rule. "Sed omnia 
praeclara tam difficilia quam rara sunt" (but every- 
thing great is just as difficult to realize as it is rare to 
find) reads the last sentence of the Ethics of Spinoza. 
You may of course ask whether we really need to refer 
to "saints." Wouldn't it suffice just to refer to decent 
people? It is true that they form a minority. More than 
that, they always will remain a minority. And yet I see 
therein the very challenge to join the minority. For the 
world is in a bad state, but everything will become still 
worse unless each of us does his best. 

So, let us be alert - alert in a twofold sense: 

Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of. 

And since Hiroshima we know what is at stake. 


179 




English Language Bibliography 

ofLogotherapy 


1. BOOKS 

Bulka, Reuven P., The Quest for Ultimate Meaning: Princi- 
ples and Applications ofLogotherapy. Foreword by Vik- 
tor E. Frankl. New York, Philosophical Library, 1979. 

Crumbaugh, James C, Everything to Gain: A Guide to Self- 
Fulfillment Through Logoanalvsis. Chicago, Nelson-Hall, 
1973. 

, William M. Wood and W. Chadwick Wood, Lo- 

gotherapy: New Help for Problem Drinkers. Foreword by 
Viktor E. Frankl. Chicago, Nelson-Hall, 1980. 

Fabry, Joseph B., The Pursuit of Meaning: Viktor Frankl, 
Logotherapy, and Life. Preface by Viktor E. Frankl. 
Boston, Beacon Press, 1968; New York, Harper and Row, 
1980. 

, Reuven P. Bulka and William S. Sahakian, eds., 

Logotherapy in Action. Foreword by Viktor E. Frankl. 
New York, Jason Aronson, Inc., 1979. 

Frankl, Viktor E., Man's Search for Meaning: An Introduc- 
tion to Logotherapy. Preface by Gordon W. Allport. Bos- 
ton, Beacon Press, 1959; paperback edition. New York, 
Pocket Books, 1980. 

, The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy in 

Logotherapy. New York, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.; second. 


181 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 


expanded edition, 1965; paperback edition. New York, 
Vintage Books, 1977. 

, Psychotherapy and Existentialism: Selected Papers 

on Logotherapy. New York, Washington Square Press, 
1967; Touchstone paperback, 1978. 

, The Will to Meaning: Foundations and Applications 

of Logotherapy. New York and Cleveland, The World 
Publishing Company, 1969; paperback edition. New York, 
New American Library, 1981. 

, The Unconscious God: Psychotherapy and Theol- 
ogy. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1978. 

, The Unheard Cry for Meaning: Psychotherapy and 

Humanism. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1978; Touch- 
stone paperback, 1979. 

, Synchronization in Buchenwald, a play, offset, 

$5.00. Available at the Institute of Logotherapy, 2000 
Dwight Way, Berkeley, California 94704. 

Leslie, Robert C, Jesus and Logotherapy: The Ministry of 
Jesus as Interpreted Through the Psychotherapy of Viktor 
Frank l. New York and Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1965; 
paperback edition, 1968. 

Lukas, Elizabeth, Meaningful Living: Logotherapeutic 
Guide to Health. Foreword by Viktor E. Frankl. Cam- 
bridge, Massachusetts, Schenkman Publishing Company, 
1984. 

Takashima, Hiroshi, Psychosomatic Medicine and Lo- 
gotherapy. Foreword by Viktor E. Frankl. Oceanside, 
New York, Dabor Science Publications, 1977. 

Tweedie, Donald F., Logotherapy and the Christian Faith: 
An Evaluation of Frankl' s Existential Approach to Psy- 
chotherapy. Preface by Viktor E. Frankl. Grand Rapids, 
Baker Book House, 1961; paperback edition, 1972. 

, The Christian and the Couch: An Introduction to 

Christian Logotherapy. Grand Rapids, Baker Book 
House, 1963. 

Ungersma, Aaron J., The Search for Meaning: A New 
Approach in Psychotherapy and Pastoral Psychology. 


182 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 


Philadelphia, Westminster Press, 1961; paperback edition, 
foreword by Viktor E. Frankl, 1968. 

Wawrytko, Sandra A., ed.. Analecta Frankliana: The Pro- 
ceedings of the First World Congress of Logotherapy 
(1980), Berkeley, Institute of Logotherapy Press, 1982. 

Note: The following are selected books by Viktor E. Frankl 
published in German and not translated into English: 

Frankl, Viktor E., Anthropologische Grundlagen der Psy- 
chotherapie, Bern, Huber, 1981. 

, Die Sinnfrage in der Psychotherapie. Vorwort von 

Franz Kreuzer. Munich, Piper, 1981. 

, Der Mensch vor der Frage nach dem Sinn: Eine 

Auswahl aus dem Gesamtwerk. Vorwort von Konrad Lo- 
renz. Munich, Piper, 1982. 

, Die Psychotherapie in der Praxis: Eine kasuistische 

EinfUhrung fur Aerzte. Vienna, Deuticke, 1982. 

, Der Wille zum Sinn: Ausgewaehlte Vortraege iiber 

Logotherapie. Bern, Huber, 1982. 

, Das Leiden am sinnlosen Leben: Psychotherapie fiir 

heute. Freiburg im Breisgau, Herder, 1984. 

, Psychotherapie fiir den Laien: Rundfunkvortraege 

iiber Seelenheilkunde. Freiburg im Breisgau, Herder, 
1983. 

, Theorie und Therapie der Neurosen: EinfUhrung in 

Logotherapie und Existenzanalyse. Munich, Reinhardt, 
1983. 


2. CHAPTERS IN BOOKS 

Arnold, Magda B., and lohn A. Gasson, "Logotherapy and 
Existential Analysis," in The Human Person. New York, 
Ronald Press, 1954. 

Ascher, L. Michael, "Paradoxical Intention," in Handbook 
of Behavioral Interventions, A Goldstein and E. B. Foa, 
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Sahakian, William S., "Philosophical Therapy: A Variation 
on Logotherapy." The International Forum for Lo- 
gotherapy, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Fall 1980), 37-40. 

, and Barbara Jacquelyn Sahakian, "Logotherapy as 

a Personality Theory." The Israel Annals of Psychiatry 
and Related Disciplines, X (1972), 230-44. 

Salzmann, Leon, and Frank K. Thaler, "Obsessive-Compul- 
sive Disorders: A Review of the Literature." American 
Journal of Psychiatry, 138:3 (March 1981), 286-96. 

Sargent, George Andrew, "Job Satisfaction, Job Involve- 
ment and Purpose in Life: A Study of Work and Frankl's 
Will to Meaning." Thesis presented to the faculty of the 
United States International University in partial fulfill- 
ment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts, 
1971 

, "Motivation and Meaning: Frankl's Logotherapy in 

the Work Situation." Dissertation, United States Interna- 
tional University, Sait Diego, 1973. 

, "Transference and Countertransference in Lo- 
gotherapy." The International Forum for Logotherapy, 
Vol. 5, No. 2 (Fall/Winter 1982), 115-18.' 

, "Combining Paradoxical Intention with Behavior 

Modification." The International Forum for Logotherapy, 
Vol. 6, No. 1 (Spring/Summer 1983), 28-30. 

Schachter, Stanley J., "Bettelheim and Frankl: Contradict- 


212 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 


ing Views of the Holocaust." Reconstructionist, XXVI, 
No. 20 (Feb. 10, 1961), 6-11. 

Shea, John J., "On the Place of Religion in the Thought of 
Viktor Frankl." Journal of Psychology and Theology, III, 
No. 3 (Summer 1975), 179-86. 

Simms, George R., "Logotherapy in Medical Practice." The 
International Forum for Logotherapy, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Sum- 
mer-Fall 1979), 12-14. 

Siroky, Vlastimil, "Treatment of Existential Frustration." 
The International Forum for Logotherapy, Vol. 6, No. 1 
(Spring/Summer 1983), 40-4 1 . 

Solyom, L., J. Garza-Perez, B. L. Ledwidge andC. Solyom, 
"Paradoxical Intention in the Treatment of Obsessive 
Thoughts: A Pilot Study." Comprehensive Psychiatry, 
Vol. 13, No. 3 (May 1972), 291-97. 

Souza, Aias de, "Logotherapy and Pastoral Counseling: An 
Analysis of Selected Factors in Viktor E. Frankl's Con- 
cept of Logotherapy as They Relate to Pastoral Counsel- 
ing." Dissertation, Heed University, Hollywood, Florida, 
1980. 

Starck, Partricia L., "Rehabilitative Nursing and Lo- 
gotherapy: A Study of Spinal Cord Injured Clients." The 
International Forum for Logotherapy, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Fall/ 
Winter 1981), 101-9.' 

Stecker, R. E., "The Existential Vacuum in Eastern Eu- 
rope." The International Forum for Logotherapy, Vol. 4, 
No. 2 (Fall/Winter 1981), 79-82. 

Stones, Christopher R., "Personal Religious Orientation and 
Frankl's Will to Meaning in Four Religious Communi- 
ties." South African Journal of Psychology, 10 (1980), 50- 
52. 

Stropko, Andrew John, "Logoanalysis and Guided Imagery 
as Group Treatments for Existential Vacuum." Disserta- 
tion, Texas Tech University, 1975. 

Taylor, Charles P., "Meaning in Life: Its Relation to the 
'Will-to-Pleasure' and Preoccupation with Death." Mas- 
ter's thesis, the University of Pittsburgh, 1974. 


213 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 


Timms, M. W. H., "Treatment of Chronic Blushing by 
Paradoxical Intention." Behavioral Psychotherapy, 8 
(1980), 59-61. 

Turner, R. H., "Comment on Dr. Frankl's Paper." Journal 
of Existential Psychiatry, I (1960), 21-23. 

Turner, Ralph M., and L. Michael Ascher, "Controlled 
Comparison of Progressive Relaxation, Stimulus Control, 
and Paradoxical Intention Therapies for Insomnia." Jour- 
nal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 47, No. 3 
(1979), 500-8. 

VanKaam, Adrian, "Foundation Formation and the Will to 
Meaning." The International Forum for Logotherapy, 
Vol. 2, No. 3 (Spring 1980), 57-59. 

Victor, Ralph G., and Carolyn M. Krug, "Paradoxical Inten- 
tion in the Treatment of Compulsive Gambling." Ameri- 
can Journal of Psychotherapy, XXI, No. 4 (Oct. 1967), 
808-14. 

"Viktor Frankl." The Colby Alumnus, LI (Spring 1962), 5. 

Waugh, Robert 1. L., "Paradoxical Intention." American 
Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 123, No. 10 (April 1967), 
1305-6. 

Weiss, M. David, "Frankl's Approach to the Mentally 111." 
Association of Mental Hospital Chaplains' Newsletter 
(Fall 1962), 39-42. 

Weisskopf-Joelson, Edith, "Some Comments on a Viennese 
School of Psychiatry." Journal of Abnormal and Social 
Psychology, LI (1955), 701-3. 

, "Logotherapy and Existential Analysis." Acta Psy- 

chotherapeutica, VI (1958), 193-204. 

, "Paranoia and the Will-to-Meaning." Existential 

Psychiatry, I (1966), 316-20. 

, "Some Suggestions Concerning the Concept of 

Awareness." Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Prac- 
tice, VIII (1971), 2-7. 

, "Logotherapy: Science or Faith?" Psychotherapy: 

Theory, Research and Practice, XII (1975), 238-40. 

, "The Place of Logotherapy in the World Today." 


214 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 


The International Forum for Logotherapy, Vol. 2, No. 3 
(Spring 1980), 3-7. 

Whiddon, Michael F., "Logotherapy in Prison." The Inter- 
national Forum for Logotherapy, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Spring- 
Summer 1983), 34-39. 

Wilson, Robert A., "Logotherapy: An Educational Ap- 
proach for the Classroom Teacher." Dissertation, 
Laurence University, 1982. 

Wirth, Arthur G., "Logotherapy and Education in a Post- 
Petroleum Society." The International Forum for Lo- 
gotherapy, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Spring 1980), 29-32. 

Wood, Frank E., "Logotherapy in Self-Application: Report 
from U-One-South-Nine." The International Forum for 
Logotherapy, Vol. 5, No. 1 (Spring-Summer 1982), 53-56. 

Yeates, J. W., "The Educational Implications of the Lo- 
gotherapy of Viktor E. Frankl." Doctoral dissertation. 
University of Mississippi, 1968. 

Yoder, James D., "A Child, Paradoxical Intention, and 
Consciousness." The International Forum for Lo- 
gotherapy, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Spring/Summer 1983), 19-21. 


4. FILMS, RECORDS, AND TAPES 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Logotherapy," a film produced by the 
Department of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Behavioral 
Sciences, University of Oklahoma Medical School. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Frankl and the Search for Meaning," a 
film produced by Psychological Films, 110 North Wheeler 
Street, Orange, CA 92669. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Some Clinical Aspects of Logotherapy. 
Paper Read Before the Anderson County Medical Society 
in South Carolina," "Man in Search of Meaning. Address 
Given to the Annual Meeting of the Anderson County 
Mental Health Association in South Carolina," and 
"Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning. Lecture Given at 
the Peachtree Road Methodist Church in Atlanta, Geor- 


215 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 


gia," videotapes cleared for television upon request from 
WGTV, the University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30601. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Meaning and Purpose in Human Experi- 
ence," a videotape produced by Rockland Community 
College. Rental or purchase through the Director of Li- 
brary Services, 145 College Road, Suffern, NY 10901. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Education and the Search for Meaning. 
An Interview by Professor William Blair Gould of Bradley 
University," a videotape produced by Bradley University 
Television. Available by request from Bradley University, 
Peoria, IL 61606 ($25.00 handling charges for usage). 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Youth in Search for Meaning. The Third 
Paul Dana Bartlett Memorial Lecture," a videotape pro- 
duced by KNBU and cleared for television upon request 
from President James Edward Doty, Baker University, 
Baldwin City, KA 66006. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Clinical Aspects of Logotherapy," a 
videotaped lecture. Replay available by arrangement with 
Medical Illustration Services, Veterans Administration 
Hospital, 3801 Miranda Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94304. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Logotherapy," a videotaped lecture. 
Available for rental or purchase from Educational Televi- 
sion, University of California School of Medicine, Depart- 
ment of Psychiatry, Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric In- 
stitute, 3rd Avenue and Parnassus Avenue, San 
Francisco, CA 941 12. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Logotherapy Workshop," a videotaped 
lecture. Available for rental or purchase from Middle 
Tennessee State University, Learning Resource Center, 
Murfreesboro, TN 37130. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "The Rehumanization of Psychotherapy. 
A Workshop Sponsored by the Division of Psychotherapy 
of the American Psychological Association," a videotape. 
Address inquiries to Division of Psychotherapy, American 
Psychological Association, 1200 17th Street, N.W., Wash- 
ington, DC 20036. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Youth in Search of Meaning," a video- 
tape produced by the Youth Corps and Metro Cable 


216 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 


Television. Contact: Youth Corps, 56 Bond Street, To- 
ronto, Ontario M5B 1X2, Canada. Rental fee $10.00. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Man in Search of Meaning," a film 
interview with Jim Corey of CFTO Television in Toronto. 
Contact: Youth Corps, 56 Bond Street, Toronto, Ontario 
M5B 1X2, Canada. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Human Freedom and Meaning in Life" 
and "Self-Transcendence - Therapeutic Agent in Sexual 
Neurosis," videotapes. Copies of the tapes can be ordered 
for a service fee. Address inquiries to the Manager, Learn- 
ing Resource Distribution Center, United States Interna- 
tional University, San Diego, CA 92131. 

Frankl, Viktor E., two 5-hour lectures, part of the course 
Human Behavior 616, "Man in Search of Meaning," dur- 
ing the winter quarter, 1976. Copies of the videotapes can 
be ordered for a service fee. Address inquiries to the 
Manager, Learning Resource Distribution Center, United 
States International University, San Diego, CA 92131. 

Frankl, Viktor E., a videotaped convocation. Address inqui- 
ries to President Stephen Walsh, St. Edward's University, 
Austin, TX 78704. 

Frankl, Viktor E., a videotaped lecture given at Monash 
University, Melbourne, Australia, on March 6, 1976. In- 
quiries should be addressed to Royal Australian College of 
General Practitioners, Family Medicine Programme, 
Audio Visual Department, 70 Jolimont Street, Jolimont, 
3002, Melbourne, Australia. 

Frankl, Viktor E., interview with Dr. Viktor E. Frankl by 
Dr. Paul W. Ngui, President, Singapore Association for 
Mental Health, 16 mm. film. Inquiries should be addressed 
to Controller, Central Production Unit, Television Singa- 
pore, Singapore, 10. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "The Unheard Cry for Meaning," a 
videotape produced by the Youth Corps and Metropolitan 
Separate School Board of Toronto. Contact: Youth Corps, 
56 Bond Street, Toronto, Ontario M5B 1X2, Canada. 
Rental fee $10.00. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "A Panel of Experts from the Fields of 


217 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 


Medicine, Anthropology, Psychiatry, Religion, Social 
Work, Philosophy, and Clinical Psychology, Discussing 
Topics of Interest with Dr. Frankl at the First World 
Congress of Logotherapy, San Diego, 1980." A 51-minute 
videotape. $53.00. Make check payable to the Institute of 
Logotherapy, 2000 Dwight Way, Berkeley, CA 94704. 
When ordering, state kind of tape wanted (Beta, VHS, or 
%-inch U-matic). 

Frankl, Viktor E., "The Meaning of Suffering," a lecture 
given on Ian. 31, 1983. Available for rental or purchase 
from the Department of Audiovisual Services, Cedars- 
Sinai Medical Center, 8700 Beverly Boulevard, Los 
Angeles, CA 90048. Audiocassette, $15.00 - videocas- 
sette, $50.00. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Three Lectures on Logotherapy," given 
at the Brandeis Institute, Brandeis, CA 93064. Long- 
playing records. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Man in Search of Meaning: Two Dia- 
logues," "Self-Transcendence: The Motivational Theory 
of Logotherapy," "What Is Meant by Meaning?" and 
"Logotherapy and Existentialism," audiotapes produced 
by Jeffrey Norton Publishers, Inc., 145 East 49th Street, 
New York, NY 10017. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "The Student's Search for Meaning," an 
audiotape produced by WGTV, the University of Georgia, 
Athens, GA 30601. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "The Existential Vacuum" ("Existential 
Frustration as a Challenge to Psychiatry," "Logotherapy 
as a Concept of Man," "Logotherapy as a Philosophy of 
Life"), tapes produced by Argus Communications, 7440 
Natchez Avenue, Niles, IL 60648, $18.00. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "The Existential Vacuum: A Challenge to 
Psychiatry. Address Given at the Unitarian Church, San 
Francisco, California, October 13,1969," a tape produced 
by Big Sur Recordings, 2015 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 
94965" 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Meaninglessness: Today's Dilemma," 

218 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 


an audiotape produced by Creative Resources, 4800 West 
Waco Drive, Waco, TX 76703. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Logotherapy Workshop," an audiotape 
produced by Middle Tennessee State University, Learning 
Resource Center, Murfreesboro, TN 37130. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Man's Search for Meaning. An Intro- 
duction to Logotherapy." Recording for the Blind, Inc., 
215 East 58th Street, New York, NY 10022. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Youth in Search of Meaning." Word 
Cassette Library (WCL 0205), 4800 West Waco Drive, 
Waco, TX 76703. $5.95. 

Frankl, Viktor E., lecture given at Monash University, 
Melbourne, Australia, on March 6, 1976. An audiocas- 
sette available from Spectrum Publications, 127 Burnley 
Street, Richmond, Victoria 3121, Australia. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Theory and Therapy of Neurosis: A 
Series of Lectures Delivered at the United States Interna- 
tional University in San Diego, California." Eight 90- 
minute cassettes produced by Creative Resources, 4800 
West Waco Drive, Waco, TX 76703. $79.95. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Man in Search of Meaning: A Series of 
Lectures Delivered at the United States International 
University in San Diego, California." Fourteen 90-minute 
cassettes produced by Creative Resources, 4800 West 
Waco Drive, Waco, TX 76703. $139.95. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "The Neurotization of Humanity and the 
Re -Humanization of Psychotherapy," two cassettes. Ar- 
gus Communications, 7440 Natchez Avenue, Niles, IL 
60648. $14.00. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Youth in Search of Meaning," an 
audiotape produced by the Youth Corps, 56 Bond Street, 
Toronto, Ontario M5B 1X2, Canada. Available on reel-to- 
reel or cassette. $7.50. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "The Unheard Cry for Meaning," an 
audiocassette produced by the Youth Corps, 56 Bond 
Street, Toronto, Ontario M5B 1X2, Canada. $6.50. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Therapy Through Meaning," Psycho- 


219 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 


therapy Tape Library (T 656), Post Graduate Center, 124 
East 8th Street, New York, NY 10016. $15.00. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Existential Psychotherapy," two cas- 
settes. The Center for Cassette Studies, 8110 Webb Ave- 
nue, North Hollywood, CA 91605. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "The Defiant Power of the Human Spirit: 
A Message of Meaning in a Chaotic World." Address at 
the Berkeley Community Theater, Nov. 2, 1979. A 90- 
minute cassette tape. Available at the Institute of Lo- 
gotherapy, 2000 Dwight Way, Berkeley, CA 94704. $6.00. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "The Meaning of Suffering for the Ter- 
minally 111," International Seminar on Terminal Care, 
Montreal, Oct. 8, 1980. Audio Transcripts, Ltd. (Code 25- 
107-80 A and B), P.O. Box 487, Times Square Station, 
New York, NY 10036. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "Finding Meaning in Life and Death," 
keynote address on March 22, 1984 at the Ninth Annual 
Conference of the St. Francis Center. Available at 1768 
Church Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20036. $8.50. 

Frankl, Viktor E., "The Rehumanization of Psychother- 
apy," lecture on occasion of the inauguration of the Lo- 
gotherapy Counseling Center of Atlanta and Athens on 
Nov. 14, 1980. An audiocassette (1/404/5424766) avail- 
able from the Center for Continuing Education, the Uni- 
versity of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602. 

Frankl, ViktorE., Robin W. Goodenough, IverHand, Oliver 
A. Phillips and Edith Weisskopf-Joelson, "Logotherapy: 
Theory and Practice. A Symposium Sponsored by the 
Division of Psychotherapy of the American Psychological 
Association," an audiotape. Address inquiries to Division 
of Psychotherapy, American Psychological Association, 
1200 17th Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20036. 

Frankl, ViktorE., and Huston Smith, "Value Dimensions in 
Teaching," a color television film produced by Hollywood 
Animators, Inc., for the California Junior College Associ- 
ation. Rental or purchase through Dr. Rex Wignall, Direc- 
tor, Chaffey College, Alta Loma, CA 91701. 

Gale, Raymond F., Joseph Fabry, Mary Ann Finch and 


220 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 


Robert C. Leslie, "A Conversation with Viktor E. Frankl 
on Occasion of the Inauguration of the 'Frankl Library 
and Memorabilia' at the Graduate Theological Union on 
February 12, 1977," a videotape. Copies may be obtained 
from Professor Robert C. Leslie, 1798 Scenic Avenue, 
Berkeley, CA 94707. 

Hale, Dr. William H., "An Interview with Viktor E. Frankl. 
With an Introduction by Dr. Edith Weisskopf-Joelson, 
Professor of Psychology at the University of Georgia," a 
videotape cleared for television upon request from 
WGTV, the University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30601. 

"The Humanistic Revolution: Pioneers in Perspective," in- 
terviews with leading humanistic psychologists: Abraham 
Maslow, Gardner Murphy, Carl Rogers, Rollo May, Paul 
Tillich, Frederick Peris, Viktor Frankl and Alan Watts. 
Psychological Films, 110 North Wheeler Street, Orange, 
CA 92669. Sale $250.00; rental $20.00. 

Murray, Dr. Edward L., and Dr. Rolf von Eckartsberg, a 
discussion with Dr. Viktor E. Frankl on "Logotherapy: 
Theory and Applied" conducted by two members of the 
Duquesne University Graduate School of Psychology, 
filmed July 25, 1972. Available for rental, fee $15.00. Mail 
request to Chairman, Department of Psychology, Du- 
quesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15219. 

5. BRAILLE EDITIONS 

Fabry, Joseph B., The Pursuit of Meaning: Logotherapy 
Applied to Life. Available on loan at no cost from Wood- 
side Terrace Kiwanis Braille Project, 850 Longview Road, 
Hillsborough, CA 94010. 

Frankl, Viktor E., Man's Search for Meaning: An Introduc- 
tion to Logotherapy. Available on loan at no cost from 
Woodside Terrace Kiwanis Braille Project, 850 Longview 
Road, Hillsborough, CA 94010. 

Frankl, Viktor E., The Unheard Cry for Meaning: Psycho- 
therapy and Humanism. Available on loan at no cost from 
Woodside Terrace Kiwanis Braille Project, 850 Longview 
Road, Hillsborough, CA 94010. 


221 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR 


VIKTOR E. FRANKL is Professor of Neurology and 
Psychiatry at the University of Vienna Medical School 
and Distinguished Professor of Logotherapy at the U.S. 
International University. He is the founder of what has 
come to be called the Third Viennese School of Psycho- 
therapy (after Freud's psychoanalysis and Adler's individ- 
ual psychology) - the school of logotherapy. 

Born in 1905, Dr. Frankl received the degrees of Doc- 
tor of Medicine and Doctor of Philosophy from the 
University of Vienna. During World War II he spent three 
years at Auschwitz, Dachau and other concentration 
camps. 

Dr. Frankl first published in 1924 in the INTERNA- 
TIONAL JOURNAL OF PSYCHOANALYSIS and has 
since published twenty-seven books, which have been 
translated into nineteen languages, including Japanese and 
Chinese. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard, 
Duquesne and Southern Methodist Universities. Honor- 
ary Degrees have been conferred upon him by Loyola 
University in Chicago, Edgecliff College, Rockford Col- 
lege and Mount Mary College, as well as by universities in 
Brazil, Venezuela and South Africa. He has been a guest 
lecturer at universities throughout the world and has 
made fifty-two lecture tours throughout the United States 
alone. He is President of the Austrian Medical Society of 
Psychotherapy and Honorary Member of the Austrian 
Academy of Sciences.